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City Beat: Council approves $395M city budget

The fiscal 2022 total is up 7% from the prior year

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Though it wasn’t unanimous, Springfield City Council passed the city’s fiscal 2022 budget of nearly $394.6 million at its June 14 meeting. 

The budget represents a 7% increase from fiscal 2021, according to city officials. 

Projected tax revenue is $191 million, up 9.6% from last year’s total of $174 million, and the general fund revenue is forecast at $89.1 million. The special revenue fund is projected at $129 million, and revenue from projected enterprise funds is $96 million, according to city documents.

Finance Director David Holtmann previously told council at a June 1 public hearing that budget priorities included employee recruitment and retention, public safety and fiscal responsibility.

The approved budget funds 1,960 full-time or full-time equivalent positions – a 45-employee increase from fiscal 2021’s budget, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. 

The favorable vote comes as the city expects to finish the current fiscal year around 6% above budget due to a lesser financial impact than expected from the coronavirus pandemic. Sales and use tax collections are anticipated to finish nearly $3.4 million above budget at $47.7 million.

The budget passed by a 6-2 vote with Councilperson Mike Schilling absent. It will be in effect July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022.

Councilmembers Craig Hosmer and Angela Romine both voted in opposition of the budget, as each questioned usage of taxpayer money for the city’s membership with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Hosmer inquired how much the city spends annually for city employees to attend chamber meetings. Holtmann said it was $34,400 in 2018, $36,340 in 2019 and $13,460 last year, which dipped amid the pandemic. 

“I don’t plan on voting for the budget as it is right now,” Hosmer said, noting he intends to propose a budget amendment at a future meeting. “I am going to propose elimination of funding for the chamber, but we can do that through a separate ordinance.”

Grant Avenue bills
Council heard a city staff presentation for a pair of bills regarding the Grant Avenue Parkway project. One is for an overlay zoning district to establish the corridor’s development code. Additionally, the city seeks to rezone parcels within roughly 72 acres into the new zoning district.

The Grant Avenue Parkway Corridor Plan was adopted by council in March as part of the city’s comprehensive plan.

Randall Whitman, principal city planner, previously told council the corridor plan area covers 1.25 miles of Grant Avenue between College and Catalpa streets. That includes areas within 500 feet east and west of the Grant Avenue centerline.

The Grant Avenue Parkway project is designed to create a greenway trail system and transportation improvements along a 3.3-mile stretch of Grant Avenue between Sunshine and Walnut streets.

“It’s not every day we draft a new section of zoning and propose a rezoning for such a large area with so many parcels,” Whitman said, noting it has 221 parcels. “The existing zoning represents almost every type of zoning and land use category we have in the city.”

Whitman said the zoning district has six subdistricts and housing is allowed in all of them. Use is regulated by design, property limitations and location. Parking is not allowed in front yards and is not required for nonresidential uses, said Tim Rosenbury, Springfield’s director of quality of place initiatives. He said pulling parking lots back and the buildings forward acknowledges that street frontage matters.

“We’re making this substantial investment in Grant Avenue Parkway and it’s intended to be a multimodal connector between Sunshine at Wonders of Wildlife to downtown,” Rosenbury said. “We’re looking at doing something much more than a street for vehicles. It’s also for pedestrians, for joggers. It’s a street as a place. So, the development along the sides has to reflect that.”

At the meeting, Andrew Doolittle, co-owner of property management company Everett Homes LLC, suggested the city issue a blight study in order to incentivize better development projects for areas of the parkway, as opposed to “spot blighting.”

Councilperson Richard Ollis said it’s an option worth exploring.

“It seems to me to be reasonable to at least look at the option and get a cost and maybe determine if that’s financially feasible for us to move forward,” he said.

Springfield Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner said the last blight study the city issued was in 2017 for a Kearney Street corridor plan. She said it cost roughly $100,000.

City Manager Jason Gage said staff will research the matter and report back to council.

The city was awarded $21 million in federal grant funding for the Grant Avenue Parkway project in 2019, and it’s required to provide roughly $5.2 million in matching funds. Grant provisions call for the parkway to be complete by 2026.

Other elements of the plan include opportunities to improve the corridor’s framework, roadway, future development and placemaking.

A council vote on both bills is scheduled for June 28.

Under consideration
City staff is proposing the creation of a Department of Economic Vitality, which would formally separate the current economic development function from the Planning and Development Department. The purpose is to eliminate confusion regarding the facilitative and recruitment role of economic development from the Planning and Development Department’s regulatory duties applied through local zoning laws, according to city documents.

The newly created department would continue to carry out the same role as in prior years, with primary objectives including encouraging reinvestment and quality economic growth, retaining and facilitating expansion of existing businesses and attracting new ones. Staff also recommends the addition of a new position for a director of economic vitality. Its budgeted cost for fiscal 2022 is $163,300 for salary and benefits, according to city documents.

Council is slated to vote on the proposal June 28.

Other action items

  • Council unanimously approved the annexation of roughly 25 acres of private property at 5505 W. Sunshine St., at the intersection of West Sunshine Street and James River Freeway. According to city documents, the annexation was petitioned by the property owner, West Sunshine Development LLC, registered to Springfield developer Mike Seitz of Triple S Properties Inc. In February, council approved a preliminary funding agreement for the property’s development. At the time, city staff said the intent of the agreement is for the developer to deposit at least $15,000 in funds to cover the city’s legal fees while pursuing economic development incentives.
  • Council approved the $198,959 bid of Nixa-based Ewing Signal Construction LLC for the annual contract of maintaining the city’s traffic signal infrastructure. Ewing Signal Construction’s bid came in under the engineer’s estimate of roughly $217,000 to complete the work, according to city documents.

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