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City Beat: Springfield grows annual budget 5% in proposal

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Springfield City Council appears poised to approve $366 million in proposed city spending next fiscal year.

A final budget vote is expected June 4, with the 2019 fiscal year starting July 1. The proposal reviewed during the May 21 meeting increases the budget 5 percent over $348 million approved for fiscal 2018.

As proposed, the fiscal 2019 budget assumes no property tax levy increases over the previous year. The tax levy is expected to remain at roughly 62 cents per $100 of valuation, generating about $20.5 million for the city, said Teresa Allen, a city financial analyst.

Springfield financial analyst Brandie Fisher said the city’s projected general fund budget totals $84 million, which is up roughly 1.3 percent from fiscal 2018.

Fisher said revenue from sales and use taxes is expected to grow by 2 percent over the prior year. Payments in lieu of taxes to the city via City Utilities are projected to be up 2.5 percent, and gross receipts from telecommunication and cable television companies are estimated to decrease by 7 percent.

The revenue sources serve as the “big three” for the city, Fisher told council at the meeting.

“All other remaining revenue is essentially flat,” she said. “And this brings us back to the projected total increase of 1.3 percent for fiscal year 2019.”

City Manager Greg Burris said he focused the budget on four main points: employee recruitment and retention, public safety, economic vitality and fiscal sustainability.

On economic vitality, Burris said the city plans to create three full-time-equivalent positions to bring on an additional code administrator, fire-review specialist and senior planner.

He said the city also plans to expand its dangerous buildings program, continue its lease with the Missouri Job Center in the CoxHealth north-side medical tower and create an airport-route guarantee. The guarantee “allows the airport staff and the airport board to go out and solicit additional routes for our airport,” Burris said.

“That guarantee cannot come from the airport,” he said, “so there’s a variety of partners, including the city of Springfield, we propose, that provide that guarantee.”

After the meeting, Springfield-Branson National Airport Director Brian Weiler said the city’s $10,000 commitment is essentially a revenue guarantee for airline companies potentially to add flight options.

“This is the idea of trying to allocate some regular funds, build up a little bit of reserve, so the next time we have an opportunity, we’re ready to go,” Weiler said.

Meanwhile, Fisher said the city plans to add 21.5 full-time equivalent employees. The additions call for 11 FTEs for the Springfield Police Department – including 10 sworn officers – seven FTEs for Environmental Services, one for the Springfield-Greene County Park Board and another for the city’s Risk Management program.

Fisher said Greene County would fund an additional 1.5 FTEs for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

Overall, Burris said the city has been conservative with its revenue projections.

“We don’t think we’ve gone crazy with our optimism here,” he said. “And we’ve been fairly accurate for the past couple of years.”

Distracted driving
In other business May 21, council quickly referred a proposed city ban on “careless and distracted” driving to its Plans and Policies Committee without discussion.

Zone 4 councilman Matthew Simpson spearheaded the referral, receiving unanimous support.

“I believe we need to review the enforceability of this, particularly as it relates to the state statute pre-emption that currently exists on this issue, as well as look at the experience of other cities that have tried this,” he said.

Current state law pre-empts local authorities from enacting stiffer penalties on texting while driving. State statute only prohibits drivers younger than 21 years old specifically from texting or using hand-held mobile devices while driving, other than commercial drivers. Other motorists are bound by state law to drive in a “careful and prudent” manner.

The proposed Springfield ordinance appeared to supplant the pre-emption by not specifically naming “texting” as a local infraction. The Plans and Policies Committee meets next on June 21.

If council later approves the proposed ban, distracted driving would become a primary traffic offense, meaning it could be the sole reason for a traffic stop.

Domino’s near campus
Council unanimously rezoned nearly an acre to allow Domino’s Pizza at 538 S. National Ave. – owned by A&M Pizza Real Estate LLC – to expand and raze two adjacent buildings at 1211-1215 E. Cherry St. for additional parking. A&M Pizza Real Estate also plans to renovate three existing apartment units on the lot into office and storage space, with a fourth apartment unit being converted to a manager’s residence, according to an April memo from Greg Whitlock, principal of Strafford-based Whitlock Engineering LLC.

Council also unanimously approved an emergency bill to enter a cost-share agreement with Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad Co. Inc. and the Missouri Highways and Transport Commission for $202,000 worth of rehab work to the railroad crossing along West Grand Street.

The crossing sits just west of Kansas Expressway. The city expects to spend roughly $79,000 on the project, according to council agenda materials.

Also, Rosetta Construction LLC won a nearly $2 million contract for sanitary sewer work at multiple sites across town, with unanimous council support. Rosetta Construction outbid proposals from Hamilton and Dad Inc., about $3.5 million, and Reed’s Plumbing & Heating Inc., $6 million.

A $210,000 contract to repair a collapsed box culvert at Grant Beach Park was unanimously awarded to Pfefferkorn & Drury Construction LLC. The culvert also serves as a stretch of sidewalk.


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