The work session proved to be about one major theme—money. Wednesday night, councilors got a realistic look at the as well as some bad news about the upcoming 2012 budget.
Finance Director Randal McDaniel updated the council on this year’s budget—with seven months into the year, the budget looks to be on track.
Ward 1 Councilman Tim Lee asked McDaniel about the effect the census numbers on the sales tax pool and its effect on Florissant. McDaniel responded that he estimates that in 2012’s budget, there could be a $500,000 shortfall.
“It’s not a surprise to the council,” Council President Keith English said on Thursday afternoon. “We knew we’d be in shortfalls going into 2012.”
The topic of overtime brought a lot of tension to the conversation for councilors, too.
Councilman Lee wanted to understand the overage of overtime used by the public works department. The 2011 budget allocated $45,000 for overtime, but in the first two months of the year, the department had spent $84,000, Lee said.
Director of Public Works Lou Jearls said that historically, it hasn’t been a problem coming back to the council to request more money for overtime, and he didn’t think about it in the middle of winter in regard to the tightened budget.
Lee said the council warned department heads to get creative and think outside of the box in terms of their reduced budget, but Jearls said it wasn’t made clear to him.
“That blows me away,” Lee said.
“We’re in a recession,” Ward 7 Councilwoman Karen McKay said in addition to Lee’s statement. “Historically is not going to happen anymore.”
Lee explained further that departments are going to need to tighten their belts, and he said he would not vote in support of allocating money for overtime for the rest of the year.
Councilman English said going forward, councilors and departments need to look at how overtime could be changed.
“Unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil,” he said.
Reformatting the Dark Ages
The format of the budget seemed to be another big issue that the council tackled.
Councilman Lee said that under the subject of “professional services” in the budget, the council should consider making it clearer what’s allocated under professional services.
“We’re jam-packed in every department with professional services and don’t have a line-by-line look,” Councilwoman McKay said.
McKay suggested at that time a look at the City of Ferguson’s budget format to make it easier for the public and councilors to read.
McKay added that the current budget format is like, “Where’s Waldo?” and she’s tired of looking for Waldo.
Lee said that the current format is out-of-date, and while it might not happen this year, he would like council members to look at other budget formats in other municipalities to change the Florissant format down the line.
English said he thinks it would take some time and money for the reformatting to be done, but it would be the best thing for the council and administration in the future.