Thursday, May 17, 2007

City of Springfield: Pretty in Pink?

According to a May 14, 2007 Springfield Business Journal article, the City of Springfield has $39.3 million in special revenue funds as a part of the proposed 2007-08 budget. Of that $39.3 million, $17.4 million will go to the Springfield-Greene County Parks Department.

Also included in the budget is $15.5 million for the Springfield Fire Department.

Okay, $17.4 million to the Parks Department, $15.5 million for the Springfield Fire Department. Anyone see anything wrong with this picture?

The Police Department will receive $22.3 million if the budget is approved.

Vincent David Jericho of KSGF reported this morning, see Podcast's for May 17, 2007, that we are currently short "close to 50" police officers and are currently losing police officers at a rate of 3 per month.

It was announced today that the Springfield Fire Chief, Dan Whisler is resigning and Jericho added that Major Steve Ijames, 2nd in command at the Police Department is leaving too.

According to Jericho a Springfield 33 News broadcast last night reported that Chief Lynn Rowe is going to be appealing to the Mayor, the City Council and the City Manager for more funding to try to entice officers from other areas to locate in Springfield.

The obvious question to me is, what good will it do to continue to beautify Springfield, improving our parks, building lovely greenways for cyclers while losing police officers and first responders? At what point can we consider ourselves to be putting lipstick on a pig? If at some point we are no longer safe to walk the streets of our city who is going to care about beautiful parks and greenways?

On May 10, in The Springfield News-Leader, Wes Johnson shared insight regarding the police and firefighter's pension shortfall, predicted to come in at around $4 million for next year, Honea is the assistant city manager. From Johnson's article:

"Honea presented a number of options for generating the additional $4 million.

- Ask Springfield voters to boost the sales tax as much as 1 percent....


"...Carlson noted that freezing pay increases for city employees would reduce morale.

"Some employees say the pension problem is with the police and fire department, so why should we have to pay for their problem," he said.... (emphasis mine)

Later Johnson reports:

...Instead of cutting city workers' pay, the study recommended a 5 percent across the board pay hike for the city's salaried employees." (again, emphasis mine)

Why should the city have to pay for "their problem," indeed? Oh, I don't know, maybe because they made a promise in good faith?

Community Free Press - Midweek's City Council Roundup for the April 9, 2007 Springfield City Council meeting found here has this tidbit:

Council Bill 2007-107, which is supported by police and firefighters and will allow the city to lobby to be added to Senate Bill 624, was added to the agenda. Council claimed being a part of this enabling legislation would allow the city to take up to a 1 percent sales tax, intended to fund police and firefighters’ pension shortfalls, to the voters, if the council decides it’s necessary.
“All this is, is an opportunity to have that in our tool box if the time comes and the Council deems it necessary,” Gary Deaver said.
Burlison was the only member to vote no on the bill.
“If we pass or sign onto enabling legislation like this, we’re really not going to be looking at other efforts to fix this problem,” he said. (emphasis mine)

I have a sneaking suspicion that Councilman Burlison was right. I don't think the Mayor feels he should have to stay within a budget and do the hard work to ensure that police and firefighters will be drawn to work in Springfield or to stay here if they have been drawn here. Why should he or his pet projects have to suffer if he can cry enough crocodile tears to convince the voters that without the taxpayers agreeing to that 1% sales tax that the city will be forced to make cuts the people might not like? But, is it the people who won't like the cuts or is it someone else?

Carlson, Collette, Chiles, Wiley, Manley, Whayne, Deaver, and Rushefsky all voted to approve being added to St. Louis, Missouri's legislation enabling them to take an up to 1% sales tax to the a last resort, I was there, I heard it.

They should have listened to Burlison. I think he was right. Now that they've lobbied to be added to St. Louis' enabling legislation and assuming they got added, they can take a sales tax to the voters to fund the police and firefighters' pension shortfalls.

I used to play a little game on the computer called "Balloon Pop," this freaky little voice would come on periodically and say. in a whining yet cute voice. "it's too easy," well, it's too easy once you have the option of taxing the people rather than balancing a budget to not just tax the people.

On the up side (there's always a silver lining, you know?) At the last Council meeting the City's Finance Department was issued an award for their presentation of the budget. The only problem is, good things don't always come in neatly "presented" packages. Just ask that pig, you know, the one in the bright, pink, waxy lipstick?

The next City Council meeting is May 21, 2007. The new agenda has been posted at eGov Home. Be there or be..........taxed?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For some reason, the City of Springfield has
20 million for parking ramps, 20 million for a convention center, 12 million for an ice park, 100 million for an airport, co-signed a 33 million note for a baseball park, and now lack funds for basic police/ fire & public services.

Nearly all of these items were provided to the citizens without a public VOTE and were approved only by the local elite public intellects.

Hopefully the audit will inform the public where the City of Springfield is at financially.

It looks to be pathetic.