July 24, 2014

City department directors outline 2011 budgets for Gardner council

Corbin H. Crable
chcrable@gardnernews.com

The Gardner City Council heard presentations from three different city department managers at its budget work session June 28.

Finance Director Laura Gourley, Assistant City Administrator and Community Development Director Melissa Mundt, and Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Stewart all briefed the governing body on their projected revenues and expenditures for the 2011 fiscal year, which, like the General Fund, will see a slight shortfall next year.

Courtesy of the city of Gardner

A reduction in force enacted in early May, which saved the city more than $384,000, greatly helped to decrease the shortfall for the next fiscal year, but directors all reported having to share employees with other departments to help make up for the difference in workforce.

Across the board, this is the third consecutive year in which city employees will not receive salary increases, although the city anticipates being able to offer 3-percent pay increases for full-time employees beginning in 2012.

Overall, the city also expects to see a 1- to 3-percent revenue increase between 2012 and 2016.

All figures reported for each department do not include tax increases.

Finance
The Finance Department’s expenses sit at $577,100 of the overall $2.24 million in the General Fund. The 2011 expenses are up more than $6,000 from 2010’s estimate of $570,900. Each program within the Finance Department – administration, accounting and municipal court – will see funding increases of between $3,000 and $5,000.

Gourley said the department’s goals for 2011 include plans to issue permanent debt for the Prairie Brooke and Kill Creek Sewer benefit districts, which will occur in August 2011. But she said that as the department assists the city with planning for future growth, finance employees are doing their best to keep up with the staffing changes at City Hall since the reduction in force took place.

“We’ve got inexperienced staff with increased responsibilities,” she said, adding that the department remains without an accountant.

She said she hopes staff members will boost their experience as they take accounting classes and attend training sessions, but for now, the department is still seeing the effects of spreading their human resources thin.

One of those immediately recognizable effects is in the municipal court program, which is overseen by the department. Gourley said the municipal court has seen a 38-percent drop in issuance of court fines, due in large part to reduced staff levels and to increased speed limits at certain points around town. The council approved those increased speed limits last spring.

Administration

Administration’s expenses for 2011 are projected to be $723,500, down nearly $30,000 from 2010’s estimate of $753,900, according to Mundt.

Much of the decrease has to do with funding for the department’s economic development program being transferred to the Economic Development Fund and being halved, she added.

Costs for the March 2 recall election clocked in at $16,400, or $8,000 less than former Gardner City Council member John Shepherd predicted earlier this year. Those costs are classified as “outsourced services” under the mayor and city council expenses in the department’s budget.

Mundt, like Gourley, said administration staff members have had to lend a hand to other departments since early May, and that administrative assistant Tana Johnson assists Parks and Recreation administrative assistant Erin Groh for roughly 40 hours a month. Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Stewart said one way to address that situation is by trimming hours of operation in his department.

Mundt also addressed the department’s goals for the upcoming fiscal year, which include preparing for growth at 175th Street east of Interstate 35 and “developing a social media presence on the Internet for the city of Gardner,” according to a handout from the department.

Since early May, Mundt has served as both Assistant City Administrator and Community Development director.

Parks and Recreation

Even with no new projects on deck for 2011, department funding for the Parks and Recreation Department will still increase next year, from 2010’s estimate of $1,905,100 to $1,962,700 in 2011. The department’s budget makes up roughly 22 percent of the $8.9 million in the city’s General Fund for 2011.

Most of that increase will come from parks maintenance (a $24,000 increase from 2010) and the Gardner Aquatic Center (a $22,000 increase from 2010).

And although the department will not take on any new projects, Stewart said that regarding park maintenance, the department plans to complete a crack and slurry seal project on the Stone Creek Park Trail and the North Center Street Trail. That project was put on hold in 2010.

The aquatic center also will see added maintenance projects next year, including restaining the facility’s privacy fence and conducting valve and pump repairing if needed.

Stewart said a main priority for his department is maintaining satisfaction levels among Gardner residents as outlined in the Citizen Survey.

He said that among other figures in 2009’s survey, the department ranked in the 97th percentile in satisfaction with the aquatic center among survey respondents; it ranked in the 91st percentile in registration costs.

“That’s been our goal – to set fees in order to break even,” Stewart said.

Gardner Mayor Dave Drovetta said he believes it is important for the city to continue to boost satisfaction with the department’s performance and what it offers.

“It’s important that we do what we can to maintain that level (of service),” Drovetta said.

Community Development
Hardest-hit and most directly affected by the economic recession, employees in the Community Development Department have had to absorb added duties and reallocate tasks to other departments since the layoffs in May, according to Mundt.

Still working to regroup after six of the department’s employees were laid off, funding for the department will dip in 2011 to $341,200, down from $582,800 in 2010. Only a codes administrator and building inspector remain in the department, with Mundt acting as Community Development Director.

Mundt said she is willing to defray some expenses in department-related training and travel by declining to attend a training conference next year. The cost allocated to that venture is $2,000.

“I’ve told (City Administrator Stewart Fairburn) that I’m more than willing to give that up,” Mundt said.

According to a memorandum from Fairburn and Mundt, the 2010 estimate for the issuance of single- duplex and multi-family unit building permits likely will rise to 171 issued for fiscal year 2010, up from only 84 in 2009. That number is expected to decrease slightly to 162 in 2011.

The department continues to receive front-desk help from administrative assistants in other areas of City Hall, Mundt said, but she said she has not heard any negative feedback about the effect on customer service.

“There is no one left to do clerical tasks,” she told council members. “But I haven’t received any complaints regarding the level of service.”

The council will next meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 6 at City Hall, 120 E. Main St.

Comments

  1. Disgruntled says:

    It’s so warm and fuzzy that the assistant city administrator forgo a trip to learn about the job she was recently promoted to in community development. But if she truly wants to appear as a saint, let her donate that huge raise she got to the Mayor’s Christmas tree for needy families – including out of work city employees.

  2. I am a true believer in cross-training because I was cross-trained in so many different positions when I was working and because I believe it increases productivity and really helps when you are low in employees at any particular time. Too many times now I see employees and managers going along with the complaint of “That is is not in my job description so I don’t believe I should be forced to handle those responsibilities”. Bull hockey – you need to be looking for every opportunity to increase your skills and making you more valuable and pitching in when needed without the gritching and it will certainly improve your job security. Once again, we are faced with the takers instead of the givers in our society and those takers really are hurting themselves big time such as big biz, developers and other special interests who think the people should take care of their selfish rearends.

    I am disappointed that Gourley and Stewart did not reduce their costs – I believe they could and should do better. And then we have Mundt, the martyr, who will give up her $2,000 trip – like we have so much community development going on right now and since I have been a part of similiar seminars in the past, I feel sure she could read a book and get as much information.

    One thing about this recession, it has forced government entities to do what they should have been doing for years or all along and that is cut wasteful spending, spend and work smarter and within your budget and they definitely should be finding out how debt is a real money drag since we probably are spending around $11 Million a year to just service the debt that we took on – much due to debt for wants rather than needs and living beyond what you can afford but most of all by taking care of cronies or special interests rather than the taxpaying citizens.

    Sorry, City Hall, I can’t feel for you. Here a few years ago I was at a Council Meeting and Mundt was wanting to spend around $20,000 to $40,000, I can’t remember exactly what amount, to pay a consultant to find out what the fire station on 183rd St. should have. Olathe had recently just built a public safety building. To me they could have gone over their records and information and then with the help of public safety employees with many years of experience, they could have come up with this information quite easily. It seems we can’t do anything now without a consultant involved which results in taxpayers feeding another special interest. That night Mundt would not assure me that if we used this consultant that she would avoid another consultant fee for the same services in the futue when they were looking to build another station in northern Gardner. Well, as usual conservative me got voted down that night and Mundt got her consultant and the taxpayers got the bill for something that could have probably been handled by employees we are already paying and they could have used their skills to help their community and would help them in their working up the ladder to better jobs. It always totally tears me up to not give our own people opportunities but will hand dollars to a consultant. I stopped some Jo. Co. Firefighters in Price Chopper one day and gave them this scenario and asked them if they felt they were qualified to do the work this consultant got paid for and they said most certainly and they were quite surprised at the cost the consultant was receiving for this fact-finding project. I might remind citizens that Mundt was in charge of the project of building that public safety building which started out at a cost of $650,000 and up to $850,000 that Mundt said would include some extras they may want and I told her then we cannot afford wants. Sad to say that project, the last I heard came in with a total cost of $1.7 MILLION – over twice the beginning estimate – do you think Mundt or anyone else at City Hall did much to contain costs???? I hardly think so but I am sure they would tell you that went for brick or this or that for a building that will last longer, etc., etc. They are pros at rationalizing their spending.

    So you will continue to get the rhetoric out of City Hall but I still think you have to keep their feet to the fire so they will spend wisely and within our means, contribute to the employees’ long term careers and appreciate the citizens and the taxpayers who contribute so much and who should not be used and abused or looked upon as a source to take care of the special interests and/or cronies.

  3. One other thing I want to be on the record and it is this. City Hall will tell you time and time again that the public safety building built on 183rd St. was for the citizens of southern Gardner. I don’t believe the citizens’ fire protection code got lowered by that building and thereby reducing your insurance costs. And I will you tell you time and time again that public safety building was built because BNSF told them they wanted that station built close to their project and they and the Allen Group, as always, want the citizens to pay for their needs rather than them. And the same goes for that ladder fire truck that cost the citizens over a $1 Million. At the time, I called Olathe and asked them how many citizens they had before they purchased a truck of this expense and kind and they said they had 60,000 people before they purchased a truck of that kind and with that cost. Well, good ole Gardner didn’t hesitate to take care of BNSF and the Allen Group and buy this truck and with the cost falling on only about 17,000 people at the time. You get so much debt sometimes taking care of the cronies and special interests and for political reasons.

    City Hall will deny this but I will stand by my thoughts on the matter too.

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