Six police, four firefighters would be cut in proposed Crestwood reduction plan
June 15, 2005 - Crestwood City Administrator Don Greer is proposing roughly $1 million in reductions to stabilize the city's fiscal woes, including cutting six Police Department employees and four Fire De-partment employees.
In a June 12 memorandum to the Board of Aldermen, Greer said the cuts in public safety-employees would be accomplished "exclusively through attrition.'' But that would not be the case with proposed staff reductions in other areas, including parks and recreation, according to the memorandum.
At the May 24 Board of Aldermen meeting, Greer said he would present to the Board of Aldermen in June a two-year restructuring plan to stabilize the city's fiscal woes with more than $1.2 million in reductions.
However, after extensive discussions with department heads, the proposed reductions would total about $1,003,000 — nearly $675,000 in annual general fund operating expenses and more than $328,000 in parks and stormwater fund operating expenses.
Aldermen were scheduled to discuss the restructuring considerations at a work session Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.
The restructuring plan projects savings of $1,002,567.28 — $250,463.19 in police, $220,453.54 in fire, $202,668.32 in general services and $328,982.23 in the parks and storm-water fund.
At the May 24 meeting, Greer told aldermen that part of restructuring plan includes increasing the benefit level for employee pensions to encourage retirements for a two-year period. The city participates in the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System, or LAGERS.
But some aldermen expressed concerns about adopting the ordinance approving the changes to the pension benefits without knowing the specifics of the restructuring plan. Aldermen voted unanimously May 24 to table the ordinance until after the June 14 work session.
In the April 5 election in which Robinson was elected, voters defeated a $6 million bond issue that would have allowed the city to retire its line of credit with Southwest Bank, establish reserves sufficient to meet the city's cash-flow needs and reconcile debts the general fund owes other city funds.
In his memo, Greer stated, "... It was shortly after Mayor Robinson's election and the many discussions that he and I had that led to the current recommendation. Mayor Robinson indicated that while he did not wish to reduce services to the residents and businesses of the city, he realized that expenses would need to be cut and that those cuts would need to come from personnel costs. He discussed the concept of a change in the city's pension system as a means to encourage retirement of a number of employees, thereby creating not only a reduced employee count, but providing an opportunity for other employees to grow within the organization.''
Noting that he has identified as many as 18 employees who are or will become eligible to retire during the next two years, the city administrator stated, "No one can say for sure how many will take advantage of this opportunity. Indications are that most if not all have already made the calculation in the change to their benefits and look forward to the board's consideration of the ordinance.
"The advantage of this type of reduction in employee count is twofold: First, it provides an opportunity to reduce our workforce — operating costs — by offering an incentive to longstanding employees who are near retirement rather than reducing newer employees who have recently begun their career with the city; and second, by attrition, we are able to open promotional opportunities for existing employees and fill only the positions we find necessary to maintain an excellent level of services,'' Greer wrote.
By area, proposed reductions include:
Police Department — As proposed, positions to be eliminated include one commander, one lieutenant, one detective, two patrol officers and one dispatcher. Previous reductions include one dispatch supervisor and two police officers.
In his memo, Greer stated that consideration must be given to the impact of the proposed reductions, which in-cludes:
• Discontinuation of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program after 2005.
• Reduction of scheduled foot patrol and contact at Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood.
• No designated traffic officer.
• Expanded duties of the commander and lieutenant, as well as administrative duties assigned to one sergeant.
• Less timely follow-up by Detective Bureau.
• Minimum staffing for communications — dispatchers.
"However, this skeleton structure has only minimal impact on rapid, professional response to reported incidents. It does not reduce the number of officers assigned to districts for patrol,'' Greer stated.
"Anticipated savings for this segment of the restructuring once fully implemented is $250,463 and includes an increased pension factor as calculated by LAGERS,'' the memo stated.
Fire Department — As proposed, positions to be eliminated include three captains and one firefighter.
"This proposal was amended from the original following discussions with Chief (Karl) Kestler, who feels very strongly that the city should make every effort to continue to have the ability to respond two rescue pumpers,'' Greer stated in the memo. "He has confirmed that the proposed structure will accomplish that goal.''
The memo stated that Kestler has included the following as rationale for working to maintain this response pattern:
• The importance of being in a position to respond with an appropriate amount of water and Advanced Life Sup-port equipment within a stated time.
• Personnel safety as it relates to National Fire Protection Association standard 1500 that requires backup personnel on site before initiating interior operations.
• Maximizing the city's mutual aid to assist on first alarms; enabling a minimum of 14 to 15 personnel on scene within nine minutes, 90 percent of the time.
• Reductions beyond this level would most certainly alter the city's insurance rating from its current 4 to a 5.
"I believe these factors are sufficient to maintain our response of two ALS pumpers,'' Greer wrote.
"Anticipated savings for this segment of the restructuring once fully implemented is $220,453 and includes an increased pension factor as calculated by LAGERS,'' the memo stated.
General services and parks and stormwater fund — As proposed, restructuring changes would result in savings to both the general fund and the parks and stormwater fund.
"It is more difficult to discuss the specifics of these changes because it more clearly defines specific personnel,'' Greer stated in the memo. "While the public safety issues discussed above are exclusively through attrition, that is not the case with general services. This section of the restructuring does include reductions in staff effective Jan. 1, 2006.
"Essentially, I am suggesting that we move all facility maintenance issues under the direction of the director of public works, contract for specific services being completed within that department, and allow for the reorganization of the department,'' he stated.
"Anticipated savings for the General Fund segment of the restructuring once fully implemented is $202,668 and includes an increased pension factor as calculated by LAGERS,'' the memo stated.
To reduce costs in the parks and stormwater fund, Greer suggested decreasing the hours that the city's Community Center is open. The Community Center currently operates from 70 to 83 hours per week.
"I ask that you consider limiting the operation of the Community Center to a scheduled 60 hours per week,'' Greer stated. "Special events, programs held outside of those hours would need to have a cost-recovery system in place in order to be approved.''
As proposed, the Police Department would take over many of the responsibilities now performed by the park rangers and animal control would be handled by St. Louis County, Greer stated in the memo, also noting, "We would return to the stipend system we formerly operated with regard to the Sappington House.''
The memo stated, "Anticipated savings for the Park and Stormwater Fund segment of the restructuring once fully implemented is $328,982 and includes an increased pension factor as calculated by LAGERS.''
Because of the potential for reductions in staff not through attrition, Greer wrote, "I have asked to schedule a closed session for Tuesday evening's board meeting to discuss personnel not contained in this report due to their clearly defined specifics by position. Should the board wish to discuss those specifics I would ask that you adjourn to that closed session to do so.''
The memo discusses the impact of the proposed restructuring plan.
"For this illustration, I have taken the recommendation and parsed it evenly over two years. Additionally, I have increased wages beginning in 2006 by an aggregate of 2 percent. With no assumptions for increases in revenues, this model shows a declining negative balance in the general fund annually such that by the end of 2008 there exists a negative balance of $280,237; nearly $1 million in net reductions when compared to the negative balance of $1,272,119 we began with in July 2004, or $1.6 million when compared to the 2004 end-of-year fund balance,'' Greer wrote.