SIKESTON - Unless Sikeston comes up with a new source of revenue, the city will need to cut positions or services in the near future.
Members of Sikeston's city council began their review of the city's budget for Fiscal Year 2003 with a presentation by Doug Friend, city manager. The city's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30, 2003.
In a memo distributed before the meeting, Friend described the Fiscal Year 2003 budget as "the most critical budget presented in many years."
Sikeston has been able to accomplish much over the last few years, according to Friend, by using money "banked" in previous years.
This year, however, the city is looking at a $65,000-increase in workman's compensation insurance and an increase of $115,000 for health insurance, according to Friend. Other expenditure increases include additional right-of-ways and a new city park to maintain, but the biggest factor will be money that has been budgeted but never actually spent in recent years.
"For the first time we're fully staffed in the Department of Public Safety," said Friend. He explained this translates to "$300,000 in expenses that we didn't have in the past because those positions weren't filled."
Friend said over the last year, the focus for the council was on the DPS as they addressed requests from the community for more law enforcement. "We've put many things in place," said Friend, and are now "looking at maintaining what we've got."
City Clerk Carroll Couch noted the additional law enforcement efforts have resulted in a 30-percent decrease in crime.
As for balancing the budget for next fiscal year, department heads have been instructed to submit budgets with zero growth in maintenance and operation areas, Friend said, advising them: "If you got five pencils last year, get five pencils this year."
On the revenue side of the budget, city officials returned to the idea of creating a Payment in Lieu of Taxes surcharge to divert surplus Board of Municipal Utilities funds to the city. Friend said across Missouri, 17 percent of all municipal revenue comes from a utility tax of some kind.
Couch added that it appears Sikeston already has in place all revenue sources available to a city its size except for some kind of PILOT or utility tax.
Bill Green, director of the department of economic development, noted the importance of low utility rates as an incentive for attracting new businesses to Sikeston. He also presented as an option coupling a rate decrease with the implementation of a PILOT to reduce the impact.
BMU officials strongly oppose the establishment of a PILOT but had agreed last fall to jointly work toward a transfer of funds to assist the city.
An initial transfer of $750,000 was discussed with around $300,000 suggested for subsequent years. Friend said the city is still waiting on an answer from BMU officials, however.
Friend explained an increase in the general revenue tax is not an option as even if the voters were inclined to approve it the city is already at its maximum rate for unrestricted fund taxes.