City Finance And Budget Committee Discuss Pay Raises For City Employees, Fire Department Budget

By Leilani Haywood
Tribune Reporter

The Lee’s Summit City Finance and Budget Committee discussed pay raises for city employees at their May 8, 2018 meeting. Chairman Bob Johnson led the meeting with Councilmembers Trish Carlyle, Phyllis Edson, and Beto Lopez present. Alternate member Councilman Rob Binney was absent. City Manager Steve Arbo said that $1.4 million was available for pay raises and not $1.6 million because of the projected deficit in sales tax revenue.

The city had given two percent cost of living raises to core general employees, Arbo said. ““What we know today as you might recall about our revenues is that there was continue decrease in our franchise tax and EMS services not covering costs as fully as they should. That’s all to say this time last year we set aside two million based upon a snapshot of that time and $400,000 came out which left $1.6 million. Both Nick (Edwards) and I think that unless you want to bump up sales tax revenue which we have at 2 percent growth. And the finance budget and city council wants to bump it a little more we think to be in the safe zone we really have $1.4 million available to do future spend (for raises).””

Arbo added, “”Two things which is not good about next year’s budget is that there is no set-aside for wage increase or expansion. We have a break-even budget, that’s without any kind of increases or expansion requests.””

The city is projecting a deficit for providing emergency medical services (EMS). Nick Edwards, assistant city manager, said the city bills for 50 percent recovery but actually recovers 25 percent after billing Medicaid and writing down bad debt. Councilmember Lopez said, “”We need to roll up our sleeve as we finalize the budget that has to do with the EMS. That situation is a big concern.”” Edwards said the city calculates the cost for emergency medical services based on a three-year average.

Councilwoman Trish Carlyle reminded Edwards that the committee had council had set a formula for increasing the charges for emergency medical services. The deficit for 2018 was partly due to hiring six EMS personnel, Arbo said the three-year average for expenses would be higher.

Committee Chairman Johnson asked what the projected deficit was for the 2019 budget. Edwards responded that the projected loss was $3.5 million after the city spends $7.1 million. Carlyle suggested that the city bill at 80 percent to achieve 50 percent cost recovery. Arbo added that with the caps on payments from Medicaid that increasing the percentage of billing would help reach the goal of recovering 50 percent of the city’s expenses.

LS Assistant Fire Chief Brian Austerman said the department was asking for $18.5 million for fiscal year 2019. Providing EMS services accounted for 70 percent of the fire department’s budget with the goal of recovering 50 percent from billing Medicaid. LS Assistant Fire Chief Dan Manley told the committee that the city was limited to billing what was allowable under the agreement with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Johnson asked about the Fire Department’s fiscal year 2019 allocation of $790,000 for overtime. LS Fire Chief Rick Poeschl said there were various reasons for overtime such as military leave or FMLA. Councilwoman Edson said,”“We’re not trying to beat you up Chief about overtime. We’re just thinking if you had more guys I agree with councilmember Johnson that it may be cheaper or a wash and it would certainly help everyone else out.””

In other business, the committee approved forwarding to the City Council an agreement with Johnson County Sheriff in Johnson County, MO for detaining and housing prisoners for $40 a day; an ordinance authorizing waiving a payment in lieu of taxes of $33,874.16 from the Lee’s Summit Housing Authority and a resolution approving the fiscal year 2019 budget for the Summit Community Improvement District. The next Finance and Budget Committee is set for Monday, May 14.