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Grandview continues budget belt tightening

GRANDVIEW - Proposed delays in improvements to the library and parks would help Grandview trim its budget deficit, the city council learned last night during the first of two preliminary budget meetings.

City Administrator Scott Staples told council last night that a six-year trend shows city coffers bringing in a 2 percent increase in revenues each year.

The bad news is that the city's expenses are growing at about 5 percent annually.

"It...serves as a clear warning signal that our existing revenue base can not sustain existing services at their current level over the long term," Staples wrote in a preliminary budget package presented to council.

The city's proposed general fund expenses in 2007, for example, will be approximately $4.4 million, just over a 5 percent increase from 2006's general fund.

Staples noted the proposed $52,000 deficit is an improvement over initial estimates that the 2007 budget would be $458,000 out of balance.

He said the 2007 budget is also impacted because the city, as with other municipalities, will be required by the state to nearly triple its contributions to the retirement plans of its employees.

Last night council received reports of some of the belt tightening measures taken in the parks, library and fire departments.

In the parks department, the city's preliminary budget shows that about $30,000 requested for parks equipment will not be funded.

Parks Director Mike Carpenter did note that his department is working with the Grandview School District to provide recreational opportunities for the community.

In other parks budget cuts, $1,500 requested for a savings fund toward HVAC improvements at the R.A. Powell Musem will apparently be turned down, though it does appear council will approve $5,000 to replace one of the HVAC systems at the museum.

The museum budget discussion raised a question by council member Robert Morales to see if savings could be realized by recruiting more volunteers, instead of paid staff, to help out at the museum. He also raised the idea of charging admission into the museum.

Morales further questioned whether the museum should be closed to save budget funds. Council member Helen Darr countered that several members of the community have donated items to the museum and like to visit the displays.

Council closed the museum discussion by asking Staples to bring back a count of how many people have visited the museum over the past year.

The proposed library fund for 2007 shows that the city will not put in $10,000 for replacing worn carpets at the library.

Library Board Chair Jack Mariotti told council members that the library had $10,000 set aside for the new carpeting and that previous councils had pledged to put in an additional $10,000 to cover what he said would be about a $20,000 expense for new carpet.

Upon learning the library had not received firm bids on the carpet project, Mayor Norm Childress and Morales both said the city "would be chasing its tail" until it had in hand a firm cost for new carpet. Even then, Childress noted, it's not likely the $10,000 will be apportioned this year due to budget restraints.

There was good news for the library, which is one of just four in the state to receive a grant for video conferencing equipment. Librarian Linda Dunham said the city received notice of the award just last week.

In addition to serving the Grandview community, the equipment and library will help when there are too many students enrolled at video conferencing classes on YVCC's Grandview campus. Any overflow would be able to take the classes at the library for video conferencing.

In the fire department, Staples noted the tight budget proposed for 2007 means the city will not set aside funds to eventually replace five pieces of major fire apparatus. By not setting aside money each year toward the five vehicles, the city will face a one-time capital cost of about $1.7 million in the future.

There was some good news in the fire department, as Chief Pat Mason noted that three people have applied in the past week to be fire volunteers.

Mason said he hopes to see six new recruits in 2007 and, given the city's budget situation, elected to wait a year before he proposes raising the pay of volunteers from the current $6 per hour.

The Grandview City Council will hold a second preliminary budget session next Monday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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