For most of the last three months, making Cape Girardeau's city budget balance in the coming year has dominated the news coming out of city hall.
On Monday night, when the final vote came on the $54.1 million spending plan, there was little left to say. The council approved the spending plan almost without comment, making only one small adjustment. Following a discussion in their work session, and after eliminating a proposed $10 minimum fee for people using the solid waste transfer station, the budget was approved as presented by interim city manager Ken Eftink and finance director John Richbourg.
To balance the budget, which projects a general fund surplus of about $279,000, the city sought cuts of up to 3 percent in every department. The spending plan for the year that begins July 1 also provides no raises to most city employees for the second year in a row and allows seven jobs, including two police officer positions, to remain unfilled.
With sales tax revenue down about 1.4 percent for the first 11 months of this year, a loss of about $113,000, the city needed to find money to maintain services. Overall, Richbourg had estimated that he needed to cover a $661,000 shortfall in the upcoming year. Finding money to replenish the city's depleted operating reserves was also a priority.
The steps taken to find that money include increasing the fees on water, sewer and trash service. Rates for water service will increase 5 percent, while the increase for trash pickup will be 2 percent. The average bill for residential water, sewer and trash service will increase $1.95 to $50.80 per month. The average bill for commercial water and sewer service will increase by $6.87 to $144.28 per month.
Those extra charges will help support $425,000 in transfers to the general fund. One transfer will assign $139,000 in costs for the city manager and finance department to the water and sewer funds. Another change will be a payment of $286,000 to the general fund in place of adding sales taxes on water and sewer service.
Many of the cuts that helped make the spending plan balance were small, including dropping a Sam's Club membership for a savings of $15 or eliminating breakfast at the annual council retreat for a savings of $65. Others were more significant, such as charging Downtown Cape funding of $30,000 to the more robust Convention and Visitor's Bureau Fund, or visible, such as eliminating the city employee Christmas party for a savings of $2,500.
In all, a set of cuts proposed in April will save the city $495,000 in all funds and $372,000 in the general fund.
Richbourg has warned the council that if rental payments from Commander Premier, an aircraft company that has missed most of its required lease payments since arriving in 2005, are not received, the budget will need to be revisited. Commander Premier owes the city $383,000 in back rent and is scheduled to pay $213,000 in the coming year.
City officials said last week they will be meeting with a potential buyer of the aircraft company within a few weeks to discuss the back rent.
401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.