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Measure extending fiscal '04 budget OK'd by Crestwood board

An appropriations ordinance extending Crestwood's fiscal 2004 budget through Dec. 31 recently was approved by the Crestwood Board of Aldermen.

Aldermen voted 6-1 to approve the appropriations ordinance, which was needed for the city's transition to a calendar fiscal year that will begin Jan. 1.

Aldermen voted earlier this year to a adopt an ordinance changing the city's fiscal year to a calendar year, effective in 2005. The city's previous fiscal year ran from July 1 to June 30. The change in the fiscal year is designed to allow the city to better control its expense position.

The appropriations ordinance extends the fiscal 2004 budget from July 1 to Dec. 31 and authorizes the continuation of current expense items, including employee salaries, debt service payments and capital expenditures. Ward 4 Alderman Tim Trueblood voted against the ordinance, while Ward 1 Alderman Richard LaBore was absent from the June 22 meeting.

As proposed in the original appropriations ordinance, the general fund balance on June 30 would be a negative $1,097,188 and a negative $2,042,863 on Dec. 31.

However, an amended appropriations ordinance approved by the board now projects a general fund balance of a negative $1,538,709 on Dec. 31 — $504,154 less than originally anticipated.

All other funds are projected to have positive balances on June 30 and Dec. 31. The city's newly established non-expendable trust fund would have a balance of $90,132 on both June 30 and Dec. 31. The capital improvement fund would have a balance of $842,773 on June 30 and $301,126 on Dec. 31. The park and stormwater fund would have a balance of $1,551,200 on June 30 and $1,258,101 on Dec. 31.

Among the changes the board made before it voted to approve the ordinance were a form of a wage freeze, a hiring freeze, a movement of $454,000 in general fund expenses for parks and recreation to the parks and stormwater fund, and the elimination from the budget of four new police cars that would have cost $80,000.

During a discussion of the ordinance, Trueblood said, "... As I look at the document in front of me, I want to make sure I'm understanding what we're debating here tonight. We're debating a deficit of a $1.5 million in the general fund with the other four funds all being in the positive by substantial amounts and we're talking about a six-month wage freeze of some sort that will save a total of $28,000 against $1.5 million lost in the general fund and that's where the salaries come from. Am I correct ... in my understanding of that?''

City Administrator Don Greer said, "You're correct. I would add one word. The $28,596 that you refer to is a potential.''

Trueblood continued, "... But we're talking about $28,596 against $1.5 million. I truthfully don't see why we would seriously consider this for six months for that amount of money. How much money have we spent on the unnecessary state audit?''

Greer said, "We haven't spent a dime yet unless you're talking about lost time ...''

Trueblood said, "Time would be a start.''

Greer said, "Lost time, we've — quite candidly — don't have the time to calculate it. As I mentioned to the board, the director of finance (Diana Madrid) has kept a very copious (record).''

Trueblood asked Greer about the projected cost of the state audit.

Greer said, "The estimated cost is as much as $24,000.''

Trueblood said, "What a waste of money that was when we're considering cutting the wages of the employees who protect, provide us the services for an audit.''

Greer said, "I would also mention that the $28,596 does include a provision for the benefits, too ...''

Trueblood said, "It really rankles me and I, for one, will not vote for this ... bill as presented as long as that wage freeze is on there for the reasons I've just stated. If you can remove that, I'll be glad to pass it. If you can't, then my vote's 'no.' I cannot balance the budget on the backs of the folks who keep my house safe when we're paying for a state audit that is just a waste of time and money.''

Moving the general fund parks and recreation expenses to the parks and stormwater fund was another point of disagreement.

Ward 3 Alderman Miguel said, "It seems to me to transfer the expenses only defies all the accounting rules that I know. It receives money into one pocket and pays bills out of the other. So I have a problem with that particular item. If we're going to transfer the expenses, I think we also need to transfer the revenues.''

Ward 4 Alderman Tom Fagan later said, "... I had the original same concern that Alderman Miguel had that if you're going to move expenses, why aren't we moving revenues? But then if you look at it beyond on its face, you understand that we have a problem with our general fund. The other funds I don't want to say are doing extremely well, but are in the black. So having said that, obviously our intent is to get the general fund back on its feet ... I think it's the right thing to do and I think it's also the right thing to do to keep the revenue side from parks and stormwater in the general fund.''

Miguel said, "Well, I respectfully disagree with Alderman Fagan. The voters voted for a park tax. They did not vote that all expenditures would come out of the park tax and all revenues would go into the general fund. I am not aware of any instance in which one would take expenses out of one pocket and put revenues in another. To me, it just defies all accounting rules that I'm aware of. So I have to respectfully disagree with the motion that has been made unless it includes revenues.''

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