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Crestwood city administrator will unveil restructuring plan at board work session


June 01, 2005 - Crestwood City Administrator Don Greer's two-year restructuring plan to stabilize the city's fiscal woes with more than $1.2 million in reductions will be the focus of a Board of Aldermen work session later this month.

The work session will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 14, at City Hall, 1 Det-jen Drive.

Greer told aldermen last week that he had completed work on his restructuring plan.

Part of that plan, he said, included in-creasing the benefit level for employee pensions. The city participates in the Mis-souri Local Government Employees Retirement System.

In a memorandum he read to the board, Greer explained, "This is being recommended for consideration as part of the longer term plan to reduce our operating expenses by encouraging retirement for a window of two years. This reduction through attrition has the potential to affect as many as 18 employees during the next two years and is designed to assist in restructuring operating departments and reducing wages and related benefits without necessitating those reductions through other means.''

But some aldermen expressed concerns about adopting the ordinance approving the changes to the pension benefits without knowing the specifics of Greer's restructuring plan. Aldermen voted unanimously May 24 to table the ordinance until after the June 14 work session.

Referring to the April election in which voters rejected a proposed bond issue, Greer said, "... I am prepared, after a considerable amount of time — you remember all the discussions prior to the issue of the general obligation bonds with regard to what I referred to at the time as 'Plan B' — I have a restructuring plan that I recently completed. I'm going to ask the board to get together in some form of a work session to review that. Over a two-year period, my recommendations will total as much as $1.24 million in reductions. It is predicated very largely upon my anticipation that you will approve this ordinance and be able to take as many as 18 people off, what I would call off the top, which was one of the conditions that the mayor was very interested in when we first started discussing and reviewing this.

"I will tell you at this time it affects every operating department in this city. It affects the Police Department. My goal at the time ... was to prioritize rapid professional response and minimize the effect on services. It affects the Fire Department — again, the priority (is) maintaining the EMS services at or above the current level that we provide. Every, as I mentioned earlier, operating department is, in fact, involved in this restructuring.

"That's what I'm calling it. I'm going to call it that way largely because anything else would be called a layoff and adopting this ordinance does allow us a tremendous amount of flexibility with regard to restructuring the staff,'' the city administrator said. "This is a two-year plan. If adopted in total, in reductions it would amount to $1,247,600 actually — 900-and-some-thousand dollars of that is directly related to the general fund; $340,000 of that is related to the park and stormwater fund.

"I will tell you that it is significant. You can do the math. And it is drastic. I know no other way to make my point than to show you what is necessary. This is what it's going to take in order for the city of Crestwood's general fund and park and stormwater fund to be in balance,'' he said.

As part of his proposal, Greer said he will bring to the board "additional revenue concerns and issues and those may be blended or denied. Any revenue enhancement has to be approved by the voters. The issues that I have are things that we talked about before over a series of work sessions and they relate mostly to merchant license fees, adjustments in our gross receipts tax for utilities and things like that. It's going to be a combination of those events that I think that you are going to have to settle on.''

Noting that his proposed cuts total $1,247,600 in wages and benefits, he said, "... We've been working on this for some time. This ordinance you have before you tonight is an integral part of our ability to accomplish that goal within the two-year period.''

While he said he could not guarantee 18 employees would retire, the city administrator said he had spoken to a number of employees who indicated they would retire before the end of the year and others who said they would retire early next year.

Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood asked the city administrator how his proposed two-year plan would impact the general fund this year.

"What I will be recommending to you with regard to — during the work session that I'm proposing that we have — will address what I would consider to be immediate cuts that need to be made and then give you a couple of options; not many because they're aren't many,'' Greer said.

Ward 4 Alderman Joe O'Keefe later said, "... This plan only works if we're committed to reducing staff, restructuring our employees?''

Greer said, "If you're not willing to reduce the operating costs, i.e. staff, then you would be increasing operating costs and that's not a good idea unless you're committed to reducing the staff.''

O'Keefe said, "OK ... I'm trying to get this right. I don't want to put the cart before the horse. But are we doing that if we vote on this tonight? Should we have a work session first? ... Like I've said before, we've been sent a message. I think we don't have any choice but to reduce staff, but should we make sure we have a consent of the board before we commit to this ordinance or are under the gun on time ...''

Greer said, "No, we're not under the gun on time ... If the board is going to enact it, the sooner you enact it, the sooner we start to reap the benefits. I don't want to be so bold, but you have to cut the staff ... I want to make sure that we're all clear. You have to cut the staff somehow. Now the beauty of — or what I would consider to be the beauty of this particular proposal — is it allows you to do that a lot through, a lot of those through attrition because you are enabling other people, encouraging some ... employees to retire, which creates opportunity for younger people. Not all of the — some of the positions that are leaving will be replaced or that will be my recommendation. You asked me for a plan, here's my plan.''

The city administrator later noted, ".... We've agonized over it. I can tell you that my plan for staff reduction has not been widely distributed for employees ... Even a couple of the department heads haven't seen it yet. I've talked with everyone about it, but they've not seen the details ...''

In response to a question from O'Keefe about how the proposed staff cuts would be implemented, Greer said, "... Typically you would do that through appropriation, the budget. I would bring to you specific — because this affects services, this affects the operations of the city, I would feel very uncomfortable unless you understood exactly what I was recommending and why I was recommending and what I believe the impact will be. Part of what my report to you will include will be an impact statement as to what effect that has.

"For example, one of the police officers that has the potential to retire and I think in all likelihood may is one of our DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officers. Well, my recommendation to you the impact of his retirement is not to fill that position and no longer offer DARE ... You have to see the impact of the decision. You have to know what effect there is. If you say you're making cuts, what effect is there?''

Despite the proposed reductions in staff, Greer said the goal would be to maintain the high quality of services offered to residents, particularly the quick response times of the Police and Fire departments.

While he favored the ordinance, O'Keefe said he was concerned about approving it without seeing the rest of Greer's plan. He would prefer, he said, to consider the ordinance after a presentation about the reduction plan.

"... Here's what I fear. I don't know what's going to happen here and I hope reality is setting in on the board,'' he said. "I think it is, but I've been surprised in the past ... I do not know and I don't want to be in this position where I vote on something I think is a good idea here and then get 'backdoored' when we don't make the cuts we need to make for whatever reason ...''

Noting that cuts totaling more than $1.2 million are "significant,'' Greer later said, "... The last time we all got together in a work session and talked about reductions, your instructions to me were: 'We don't want to cut any services.' You have to cut services. It's a question of how you do it and what impact that has and I think it's time for us to address this. This, I look at this ordinance as your commitment to move forward ...''

O'Keefe said, "... What happens if we commit to this ordinance tonight and then get involved in a work session where people take positions that, for whatever reason, they can justify and we don't get the cuts we want to make or that we think are necessary ... I have this fear based on, maybe just an irrational fear, but if this commits us to move forward with the plan that we know we have to implement, then fine, let's do it. But if it's going to be caught up and delayed and have work sessions dragging out with no one wanting to make hard decisions, then I think we need to make sure we get things done in the right order ...

"You brought up on that work session where you talked about we all, the past board, which I was a part, not wanting to make cuts in services. We all made that really clear and then the next thing we talked about was how are we going to avoid that and that was to bring a tax issue to the voters, which was rejected. That's how they spoke. I mean I certainly do not want to cut services, but I am a realist as far as this goes and I'm taking the position that — I voted for the tax increase, you know, I didn't want to cut services — but the tax increase didn't pass, so we have to do it ...,'' he said, noting he would prefer to discuss the reduction plan at a work session before taking a vote on the ordinance.

Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding later said, "... If we're going to do all of this, I don't think I'll sleep well at night to think that we're not going to also talk about the police building and the retrofitting of City Hall. I think maybe that all has to be en-compassed in your work session because if you're going to lay people off, trim down the staff, it's just got to make sense ... It's something we have to research and if the answer is what I hope it will be, then we'll continue forward. But it just makes sense.

"If you're going to have less people sitting in chairs, does anything need to be done and I think if you're going to cut and look at everything, then know where the money's coming from — unlike a lot of people who say where's the money coming from, I know where the money's coming from — but at the end of the day we have to pick up every rug ...,'' he added.

After more discussion, O'Keefe said he wanted to clarify his position, noting he supported the ordinance.

"... What I'm concerned about is the two steps that happen next and that is No. 1, we have to all agree to reduce services and I think that's the easy part,'' he said. "Every-body knows that's the reality, but then we have to agree on which services to reduce and I think that's where the posturing starts and that's my concern.''

Mayor Roy Robinson said, "Based on our discussion, there will be no — this is the best thing we can come up with without reducing services to, the ones I think you're concerned about, our services that affect our safety ... When you go out in public, they're really concerned about the police and the fire. And what we're doing here is other than insurance for the Fire Department, other than insurance costs going up because of a different category, we'll be placed in a different category, our home insurance may go up and commercial insurance may go up, but I think from the safety aspect, we're protecting everything that we have — the quick response and all that.

"So those levels are not changing that much ... We're keeping the people who actually are the working staff, you know, the people out there working,'' the mayor continued. "The people who are their supervisors and all that, some of them are going to get increased duties and some are not going to be replaced. So what we're doing is compressing the staffs and there's no way of getting money unless you're willing to go a different route other than just laying people off and you got to lay off a lot of people if you're only looking at the lower level, what I call the working people.''

Several other aldermen shared O'Keefe's concerns about adopting the ordinance increasing the benefit level for employee pensions without first hearing the spe-cifics of the reduction plan.

Aldermen voted unanimously to postpone consideration of the ordinance until after the June 14 work session.

The motion by Ward 1 Alderman Rich-ard LaBore was seconded by Ward 3 Alder-man Don Maddox.

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