Consensus on the Jefferson City 2022 budget continued to be mixed Tuesday when the City Council voted 9-1 to approve the budget.
It initially passed the budget committee Aug. 19 in a 7-3 vote after four weeks of staff presentations and changes to the proposed $64.6 million budget.
Ward 3 Councilman Scott Spencer, along with Ward 4 Councilmen Ron Fitzwater and Derrick Spicer, voted against approval in the committee meeting. Tuesday night, Spencer voted against approving the budget while the rest of the council voted in favor of it.
Fitzwater and Spicer also voted in favor of postponing the vote on the budget. The motion failed 7-3.
Spicer said his motion to postpone the vote came out of concern about a lack of public input on the budget, items not included in the budget, the full scope of additions to the budget not taken into consideration and not addressing questions in Mayor Carrie Tergin's letter that came along with the release of her draft budget.
Tergin said she felt this year's process was more open than in the past since members of the public could participate in person as well as virtually over WebEx or by phone.
"By adopting this budget in its current form, it is already inaccurate, not taking into consideration potential cost of hiring additional staff and open staff positions," Spencer said. "The budget does not take into account the cost of another salary study and importantly, in my opinion, the need for a performance and efficiency audit.
"You cannot have an honest discussion of salary increases without taking an in-depth look into city departments, into operations and staffing levels and address areas where there need to be cuts. One issue affects the other," he said.
Fitzwater said he's concerned the budget doesn't address funding for legal costs or new positions, such as one the Committee on Administration approved last week that an additional Planning and Protective Services staff member to help organize additional federal funding coming in — the addition will need full council approval before someone can be hired.
The budget approves several modernization requests, which would make city processes — such as bidding projects and performance reviews for staff members — electronic. Spencer said the budget doesn't look into where funding would come from for ongoing costs of these systems, which was not discussed at budget committee meetings.
Tergin's letter, Spencer said, asked the budget committee — which is made up of all 10 city council members with Ward 5 Councilman and chair of the finance committee Jon Hensley serving as chair — to consider "the parks admin fee and park's ability to give raises above and beyond what is approved by the council."
Her letter did not call out a specific department in terms of providing raises for employees without the council's approval, but did ask for clarification as some provided merit-based raises this year.
The topic was passed to the Committee on Administration, which last week approved putting out a request for proposals from companies to conduct a salary study, which staff estimates will cost $50,000-$75,000 and is not part of the approved budget.
Her letter also did not pose any specific questions about the administration fee — which is for legal and human resources services other departments provide to certain departments including the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.
Budget committee members discussed how the admin fee for the parks department is calculated based on the parks dedicated sales tax rather than the same formula used by departments such as transit that also pay an admin fee.
At the second to last budget meeting, Spencer proposed changing that to have the parks department pay based on the same formula as the other departments. It was not brought up prior to a motion to approve the budget at the final budget meeting Aug. 19.
Hensley said he stands by the budget and the process it underwent this year. There are issues, such as body and vehicle cameras for the police department, that are not in the budget, but he said he's dedicated to funding within the next fiscal year.
Jefferson City residents will be asked to vote on a new quarter-cent sales tax for public safety Nov. 2, which could be used to fund such cameras if the tax is approved.
"On the issue of police body cams and in-car cams, I think it was pretty clear going in that any funding was going to be difficult in this budget," Hensley said. "Even partial funding was going to require some pretty drastic moves. Maybe we wind up needing to take those moves.
"I'm committed to us making that purchase and implementing that program in the next fiscal year as would have been done if they had been included in the budget but I think it makes sense to wait nine weeks in order to operate on complete information about available sources for funding."
Numerous motions don't pass
Spencer made several motions to amend the budget, which did not pass.
He proposed striking out expenses for an electronic employee filing system for $9,000, electronic training system for $18,000, electronic performance appraisal system for $10,000 and an accident prevention incentive program for $6,000 with the $43,000 going into reserve instead. The amendment failed 8-2 with Spencer and Spicer voting in favor of it.
Spencer also moved to change a 3 percent across-the-board raise approved in the budget to instead be "an average increase of $1,491 for all full-time staff, based on figures and data provided by city staff.
"This cost would be neutral, but has significant savings going forward because top-end salaries will be reduced," he said. "This plan would enhance salaries for mid-range staff."
The amendment failed 8-2 with Spencer and Spicer voting in favor of it.
He moved to amend the budget by implementing an across-the-board salary increase for full-time staff making $50,000 or more, which would be an increase of $1,965 per person. Staff members making less than $50,000 would see a 3 percent salary increase. The amendment failed 8-2 with Spencer and Spicer voting in favor of it.
Spencer then moved to amend the budget by implementing an across-the-board salary increase for full-time staff making $60,000 or more, which would be an increase of $2,358 per person. Staff members making less than $60,000 would see a 3 percent salary increase. The amendment failed 8-2 with Spencer and Spicer voting in favor of it.
He closed out the budget discussion by suggesting the city look into changing the city charter to give the city council more oversight into the parks department. While he said he believes the Parks Commission has the best intentions, it should not have "direct oversight of a multimillion-dollar budget."
"No other city department has this type of structure that allows the spending of taxpayer dollars to be presented to the council and then to be consistently rubber stamped," he said. "As elected officials, the city council should have the authority over how tax dollars are spent. A volunteer commission cannot have effective direct supervision over day-to-day personnel and operations. This should be under the authority of the city administrator as is consistent with all other city departments. This current system is broken and must be fixed."
The approved budget funds:
- 13 police vehicles for $44,416.80 each.
- Two 1-ton trucks for the streets division. It costs $152,000.
- The replacement of a camera used for sewer and sanitary inspections. It costs $105,000.
- An accident prevention incentive program for staff. It costs $6,000.
- Replacement of aeration diffusers at the wastewater plant. It costs $180,000.
- Replacement of a wastewater truck. It costs $180,000.
- A pay increase for those employees who are on-call after hours and on holidays to address issues as they arise. The pay will increase from $8 per day to $16 for weekdays and from $20 per day to $40 on holidays and weekends.
- A Polycom system for the municipal court to better communicate with inmates. It costs $5,000.
- An electronic procurement system for the Finance Department, which will be used to accept and track project bids. It costs $15,000.
- An electronic employee filing system for the Human Resources Department, which will digitize employee records. It costs $9,000.
- An electronic learning management system for the HR Department, which will offer employees online training for their position. It costs $18,000.
- An electronic performance appraisal system for the HR Department, which will digitize the city's performance evaluation system for employees. It costs $10,000.
- Replacement of a glass recycling bin, likely the one at McKay Park because out of the four the city owns, it is the one in the worse condition, according to staff. It costs $5,000.
The budget also allocates a total of $1 million, coming out of several funding revenues, toward stormwater projects.
Council members also:
- Approved a $45,350 contract with JCD Floorcovering for new tiling in the police department.
- Accepted $300,250 through the Community Development Block Grant program. The funding will go toward down payment assistance, emergency home repair, infrastructure improvements, administration cost and demolition assistance.
- Approved the renovation of the Ellis-Porter Riverside Park Historic House by Verslues Construction Company Inc. for $606,100. The building will be turned into a ticket booth for the amphitheater, offices and storage.
- Authorized a $152,359 consolidated planning grant agreement with the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission for metropolitan planning services for 2022.