Council reviews proposed increases to spending plan

Friday, May 30, 2003

Cape Girardeau city employees won't get a pay raise, but those who work for the company that runs the municipal water system would receive higher wages under the proposed fiscal 2004 city budget.

Councilman Jay Purcell doesn't like it. He said it isn't right for city employees to have to do without a pay raise while Alliance Water Resources workers get raises.

"Everybody is hurting," Purcell said during a council study session Thursday night. City manager Michael Miller said the city staff will discuss the pay raise issue with Alliance Water Resources officials and report back to the council.

The city's current five-year contract runs through fiscal 2007, officials said.

Since purchasing the water system from then Union Electric Co. in 1992, the city has relied on Alliance Water Resources and its predecessor companies to operate it.

The $45 million city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 would pay $2.85 million to Alliance Water Resources to operate the municipal water system, an 11.5 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

The cost includes nearly $1.34 million for salaries, up 4.29 percent over this year's budget. Fringe benefits, which includes health insurance, would cost over $401,000, a 20 percent increase, city finance director John Richbourg said. Chemical costs for treating the water are projected at $306,270, up nearly 71 percent.

More discussion Monday

Council members said they'll revisit the issue in their study session Monday night. Budget issues are expected to dominate the 5 p.m. meeting in advance of the scheduled 7 p.m. regular meeting at which a public hearing will be held on the proposed budget.

But council members said they plan to wait until the June 16 meeting to vote on approving the budget.

Mayor Jay Knudtson said he and other council members need time to review the 348-page spending plan.

The proposed budget projects increased spending of more than $3.5 million or 8.54 percent over the current budget.

But Richbourg said most of the increase is in capital project spending for roads. City operating expenses are projected to increase by less than 3 percent.

City officials said the budget is so tight the city has eliminated the annual Christmas party for employees, a move projected to save about $7,500.

Knudtson said he hates to see the party eliminated. But Miller said he talked to representatives of various employee groups who indicated that canceling the party wasn't "an overriding issue."

The mayor said city officials will have to work harder now to boost morale of city workers.

Cape Girardeau residents would pay more for trash and water service and golfing on the municipal course as part of the proposed budget.

The residential trash fee would increase 2.88 percent while the charge for city water and user fees at the Cape Jaycee Municipal Golf Course would increase by 5 percent.

Richbourg told council members that the increases are needed to cover higher operating costs.

The budget includes spending about $57,000 in general fund tax dollars to help operate the Cape Girardeau Area Industrial Recruitment Association.

Council members suggested the city staff look at paying that expense out of the Convention and Visitors Bureau fund, whose money comes from motel and restaurant taxes.

Richbourg said that tax money could be used for tourism and economic development.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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