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Inside View on Government: Greg Burris

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Springfield City Manager Greg Burris said Springfield’s recent budget constraints, which led to budget cuts and a hiring freeze, were the result of a “double whammy” – decreased sales tax revenue and the underfunded Police & Fire Pension Fund. Voters approved a five-year, three-quarter-cent sales tax to help bolster the pension.

What are the city’s top challenges for 2011?
The economy, and putting together a budget with such an uncertain economy (and in particular, unknown) state and federal budget cuts and the impact on us.

Why did you downgrade the city’s two-year hiring freeze earlier this year?
It may be a slow recovery, but we’re going to recover, so for every additional vacancy that occurs, we can refill a position one-for-one. I (saw) that … if we didn’t start refilling some positions, we were going to have to start eliminating some pretty critical services, and I didn’t want to get to that point.

The city budget is dependent on tax revenues, but how are city leaders working to improve revenues in 2011 and beyond?
We heard (from businesspeople and developers that) the city’s demands were unrealistic or that our timing was such that they would submit plans … and it would take us too long to process. Time is money. (Deputy City Manager Fred Marty’s) primary task is to make the city more developer and business friendly. We rolled out (in early March) the Collaborative Community Development Initiative. … We’ve got to focus on quality of life (and its) direct relationship to economic development. We’re developing a new community strategic plan, (investigating) the relationship between 13 different topics … including early childhood development and global perspectives and diversity.

What are the city’s main goals for 2011?
To complete the community strategic plan, and the budget process. … There’s a backlog of needs within the city – vehicles needing to be replaced, equipment that’s worn out. …  There’s also completion of the Citizens Wastewater Task Force (research) process and (also) making ourselves more welcome to a diverse work force.

Financially speaking, how does Springfield compare to other cities?
We’ve all had to make budget cuts. Some cities have spent down their reserves, approaching budget cuts with a temporary philosophy. Others have taken (our approach) to try not to touch our reserves. We’ve made tough decisions and cuts, but we haven’t borrowed money. We haven’t dipped into our reserves (or) balanced our budget on one-time monies. I think we’re as well-positioned as any city.

What is the city’s role in economic development and job growth?
The city, county, City Utilities and the chamber of commerce work very closely on a daily basis to recruit new businesses and also focus on retaining the businesses we’ve got.

What are Springfield’s main opportunities for economic development and business growth?
The Market Street survey that just came out … identified the target sectors that we ought to be looking at. Data centers was one. … The work has been done in terms of targeting, so now the city, county, City Utilities and the chamber are working together to zero in.

Economic Outlook 2011[[In-content Ad]]

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