Gardner’s general fund is projected to have a $1.2 million revenue shortfall, according to Matthew Wolff, Gardner finance director.
Councilmember’s discussed the city’s budget at their May 18 meeting. The shortfall is partly due to the impact of COVD 19, community growth and staffing needs, increased operational costs with the new Justice Center and special assessments moved from the bond and interest fund. Revenue sources impacted include city and county sales tax, programming revenues for parks and recreation, municipal court fines and fees.
To maintain a general fund balance of 25 percent , the finance staff implemented budget cuts of $1.4 million to departments. Cuts include pushing back purchase of eight police cars, not budgeting merit increases in 2021 and not filling a requested 15.5 positions.
Randy Gregorcyk, council member, asked Wolf to clarify the word “eliminate” staff positions, and Wolff said he meant not back filling the positions. There is also a partial hiring freeze, so some positions will be intentionally not filled.
City staff realized they were facing financial difficulty and took a conservative approach to the budget, according to meeting minutes.
Other changes included eliminating the July 4th events, although the fireworks show will be continued. About $85,000 had been budgeted for 2020 Independence Day events, and all but the $14,000 for the show was cut, according to Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo, public information officer.
The Gardner Aquatic Center will also remain closed. The proposed pool budget for 2020 was $451,105 with about 140-150 staff.
Police vehicles budgeted for 2020 were pushed back; Rich Melton, council member, said those would need to be made a priority when the city has the budget. Police cars cost about $40-45,000 each, and in 2019 $190,000 was spent on vehicles. According to Jay Belcher, police chief, officers put about 40-50,000 miles on them per year, and after three years vehicles are rotated back to other departments.
In April this year, the council rolled back $733,573 in utility billing providing a “rate holiday” due to COVID-19 and concerns regarding electric rates that nearly doubled for some ratepayers. The council also previously spent $20,000 for a Gardner documentary featuring Laurence Fishbourne, and $350,000 to buy out a former city administrator.
Gardner’s complete budget will be published in an Olathe newspaper.