By Wendy Hayworth
During the June 28, 2018, City Council Regular Session, the council voted to approve, adopt, and appropriate the Budget of the City of Lee’s Summit for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2019. The ordinance passed six to one with Councilmember Bob Johnson voted against and Councilmembers Phylis Edson and Craig Faith absent (Councilmember Faith arrived at the meeting later.) The first reading was approved unanimously at the June 7 meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, Councilmember Trish Carlyle moved to pull the second reading of the budget from the Consent Agenda for further discussion following the second reading. This was seconded by Councilmember Diane Forte and approved unanimously.
Councilmember Rob Binney moved to approve the budget, seconded by Carlyle, opening the floor for further discussion.
Councilmember Johnson began the comment session by asking what the total aggregate retail sales were for the previous Fiscal Year, the answer being about $1.6 billion, with the aggregate sales tax being $16.8 million.
Johnson also mentioned an email that was sent out to the members of the council earlier that day at outlined the creation of a “task force” within City Hall to detail a plan to employee compensation. Johnson voiced concern that there was not any reference to revenue growth, or how the increased pay would be funded.
“All we’re doing is creating the vehicle,” City Manager Steve Arbo said. “What you’re talking about is fuel, the dollar amount that you all set aside for increases in pay.”
Referencing a previous closed session meeting where revenue projections were shown, Johnson stated that he found it “extremely difficult to believe those revenue projections will be reached in the next fiscal year.” He further stated that the email also did not discuss any reductions in city positions.
Councilmember Carlyle brought forth questions asked of her concerning the listed inter-fund transfers.
Assistant City Manager Nick Edwards explained that the inter-fund transfers are there for transparency reasons, showing where money is moving from fund to fund.
Arbo further explained that these funds cover equipment replacement programs such as vehicles, machines, building, software and licensing.
Councilmember Carlyle then asked about the two five-year models presented in their packets.
One play is a five-year assumption based on the current sales tax assumption of 2.5%. The other, recommended by the Finance and Budget Committee, projected expenditures over five years based on an increased tax assumption of 3.5%.
Arbo explained that the Finance and Budget Committee’s recommended plan was to explore the effects of an increased tax assumption. This would allow more funds to be assigned to the pool slated to go to employees for compensation.
“The reason for that is we had that pool of funds that has not been assigned or allocated to specific line items,” Arbo said. “We have acknowledged that there is a higher level of revenue growth than what we originally estimated. It does not impact the budget that you’re approving tonight because we’ve set aside those higher revenues to allocate for payroll enhancements. And as we have been discussing we have not adopted the pay structure to allocate those.”
Essentially, the five-year plans existed as supplemental information to assist the councilmembers in their decision making.
“So, we all know that this budget does not speak to any compensation compression issues or any growth in numbers that people have requested,” Carlyle said. “You’ve put together a group to spearhead this process that needs to happen in order for us to get the pay structure right so that we can adopt it so that we can allocate the funds so that people can get their raises.”
Stating that she appreciated the process and letting the Council know who all is involved, she also wished to challenge the group to come up with a timeframe. Arbo agreed and stated that a timeframe will be a primary target at the next meeting.
Mayor Bill Baird later promised that he would get involved in this group in the interest of giving city employees a voice and “get this going as quickly as possible” while reporting back to the Council. “Let’s meet and let’s talk about how to give employees the best voice in the formation of that group.”
Councilmember Binney discussed his opposition to the use of reserved general funds or specifically allocated funds for reoccurring expenditures in the name of fiscal responsibility, but that he will support the motion “in belief that we will work together to reach these goals” of cost saving and improving employee compensation.
Councilmember Forte supported Binney’s statements and added her own comments, “We have to pass the budget by June 30,” Forte said. “Over the years, being on this Council, there are many times that we amended the budget. We have the ability to amend this budget.”