Board of Aldermen Meeting Agendas & Minutes
Every effort is made to ensure that the Agendas and Minutes provided on this and subsequent pages is timely and correct; however, users should keep in mind that this information is provided only as a public convenience. In any case where legal reliance on information is required, the official records of the City of Ballwin should be consulted.
The Board of Aldermen meet on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. in the Board Room of the Ballwin Government Center, 1 Government Ctr. Schedule and place subject to change. Meetings are open to the public. All citizens are urged to attend.
Finance & Administration Committee Meeting
M E E T I N G N O T I C E
Finance & Administration Committee
The Finance & Administration Committee of the Ballwin Board of Aldermen will meet on Monday, February 28, 2005 at 6:00 p.m., prior to the regular scheduled Board of Aldermen meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the Board Room at the Donald Red Loehr Police & Court Center, 300 Park Drive. The purpose of this session is to discuss potential revenue enhancements and cost reduction measures. No formal action is expected.
MINUTES of the FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE MEETING
February 28, 2005
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Buermann at 6:00 p.m. in the Board room at the Donald “Red” Loehr Police and Court Center at 300 Park Drive. The meeting was open to the public and notice was posted in the 24-hour lobby of Ballwin Police Department, the Government Center, and The Pointe on the Friday preceding the meeting. Those in attendance were Chairman Buermann, Committee members McDowell, Fleming. Committee member Gatton was absent. Also in attendance were Mayor Jones, Alderman Lembke, City Administrator Kuntz, and Assistant City Administrator Aiken.
Chairman Buermann asked if S.O.S. is going out of business. Assistant City Administrator Aiken said he has been hearing rumors for a couple of months that the property would become available.
Chairman Buermann asked if there is a hiring freeze in place for non-critical staff. City Administrator Kuntz said that we have not added new additional employees for the for the past several years. We are filling vacancies.
City Administrator Kuntz said that a senior full time front desk attendant at The Pointe retired. Front desk staffing was reorganized to make use of other existing employees. The money saved by not replacing the full-time clerical position were used to pay the arborist, and the total budget amount for personnel was not exceeded.
Chairman Buermann asked if the cost of this position is equal to what we will get out of the position. City Administrator Kuntz said that in Ballwin there are over 120 miles of tree-lined streets and Ballwin has been “Tree City USA” for 16 years. If trees are planted, they must be maintained. If we make a commitment one way to create something, we need to take care of it too. He said we need a tree maintenance and planting plan with a comprehensive direction for the trees in the rights-of-way, in the parks, around the City’s buildings, and in the golf course.
Alderman McDowell asked if an outside contractor, or other means would be a better way to do this. City Administrator Kuntz said that without an arborist or outside contractor, we are not fertilizing, spraying, trimming or pruning. Alderman McDowell asked why this position isn’t under Public Works. City Administrator Kuntz said that the organization decision was made a long time ago that all of the grounds and facility maintenance, including street trees, will be in Parks. Public Works concentrates exclusively on streets and public infrastructure like sewers, streets, pavement, snow, and traffic lights. The arborist in the City of St. Louis is in the Parks Department. If the arborist primary duties are in Parks, the priorities are compatible. The arborist would not be a good fit with Public Works.
Chairman Buermann asked if we have the tools that will be necessary to do the job. City Administrator Kuntz said we have most of the tools. The arborist will start out working with the GIS Coordinator to do a comprehensive street tree inventory, which we don’t have. We have not been managing the street trees as an asset.
Chairman Buermann said that in the future we won’t have the lucrative contract terms that we have currently with Midwest Waste regarding leaf disposal. Will the arborist try to find alternatives to that? City Administrator Kuntz said that Midwest Waste is going to present a contract extension proposal. They are drafting a plan whereby Ballwin would be the first St. Louis city to be automated. They would take and put an automated fleet in Ballwin in exchange for a longer term contract. This would be a one-man truck with lifts and once per week trash pick up. The leaf pick up that we presently enjoy will be part of that contract.
REVENUE AND THE ECONOMY
City Administrator Kuntz said that if some services are going to be cut, don’t waste time with a 10% differential in utility tax. He recommended a voter approved commercial property tax. There is nothing that the City can do to prevent a Ultimate Electronics from going bankrupt or a Value City from closing the Ballwin store. We can work 80 hours a week every week and they are going to make their own decisions. There’s nothing the City can do to prevent Schnucks’ revenues from going down every year. The trend is here. The Ballwin Walgreens no longer fits the prototype model so the company puts other Walgreen stores all around us. There’s nothing we can do to stop the fact that 5 out of 6 or 7 top sales tax generators are car dealerships, which gives .025% and take up a major portion of the retail space on Manchester Road. Let them pay property tax if they are not going to give Ballwin sales tax. He said we need to stop beating around the bush and get right to the core of this.
Chairman Buermann asked if any other municipalities have a commercial property tax. City Administrator Kuntz said that the Director of the St. Louis County League of Municipalities said that he thinks this can be done without imposing a residential property tax. Alderman McDowell said this would solve part of the problem. This is one of the remedies that can be put in place. City Administrator Kuntz said that this Board has cut everything that is non-essential that we do in this city. Nothing of consequence has been missed.
Chairman Buermann asked for more information on the “Consent Items” on the Board meeting agenda. It’s time to make the hard decisions and ask more questions. The citizens of Ballwin will support us if every dollar is well spent. City Administrator Kuntz said the problem that must be overcome goes beyond that. The average person in this community has no comprehension or appreciation of the fact that there are two separate budgets. When a tax is passed for a special purpose, that’s all it can be spent on. As long as we have a very popular and successful recreation facility, we don’t have a money problem in the eyes of the average resident of this community. Even though the calendar was cut and they now have to pay for recycling, it is always going to come back to that. Alderman McDowell agreed. He said the Board has been diligent in cutting all available areas possible. He asked are we now approaching the “ouch” cut where we don’t want to cut certain items, but we may have to. City Administrator Kuntz said the political aspects must be considered. Will it alienate the public that you need for support.
City Administrator Kuntz used the example that we have 22 pieces of fitness equipment that are proposed for replacement. We have found that those pieces are more cost effective to purchase as opposed to leasing. Additionally they happen to be one of the primary selling points of The Pointe. Alderman Fleming’s question was why do we have to buy them all at once. People are saying that the equipment is old. They pay a membership fee. We budget for the top quality equipment because we are in competition with other fitness facilities. If we don’t keep the equipment state-of-the-art, members will go elsewhere and there will be a safety issue and maintenance issues. The equipment all needs to be replaced at once because it was all bought when The Pointe opened. Which way does the Board want to pay? We are on a 3-year replacement cycle. Twenty-two pieces of equipment is what it takes to get rid of the 3-year old equipment. When the customer can’t use the new piece of equipment, they complain and they drop their membership. What has The Pointe gained? We don’t save any money on the equipment but lose $12,000 in memberships.
Chairman Buermann said that the Board needs to become more familiar with the City’s buying habits so that it is well informed. He said some hard decisions are going to have to be made.
Alderman Fleming said that he understands what City Administrator Kuntz is saying, however, what’s important to himself is priorities. He said he is not saying that we shouldn’t get an aerator, or the new fitness equipment, and the golf course must be kept in good condition, but a continual problem is streets. Rather than getting an aerator that will last 20 years, maybe it would have been better to get one that lasts 10 years, and take some of the savings and use it on the streets. He thinks the residents have the perception that we are not making enough progress in this regard. He said we are continually talking about revenues being flat, expenses continue to increase. It seems that streets are always the last thing we do. We are spending less on streets this year than last year. Maybe we can find ways to scale back on those items and put more money toward streets. He said one of the problems is that we don’t follow up on the ideas that we have and get something going. He suggested that City Attorney Lucchesi put together information regarding the residential property tax. Is the commercial property tax legal? He said we don’t have enough information to make any decisions related to asking voters for new taxes or cutting into some of the budget items. We talk about things but never get there.
Alderman Fleming said that filling the Tech III position in Public Works perhaps could be frozen to save dollars and apply that money toward streets. Ideas are presented in planning sessions but we never for forward with any of the ideas.
Chairman Buermann said that it was discussed to have a salt facility in to the south. This would mean constructing another salt dome. That is an added cost. He said we should deal with the tough questions now instead of waiting until there is a crisis. We have deal with financial issues now harder than any Board, Mayor, or any administration has ever had to in the City’s history. He said the streets are in decay in all of Ballwin’s wards. The Planning Session was an “I want” session.
Alderman McDowell said that there isn’t anything else that can be cut on the administrative level. Quality of service and employee morale must remain in place. To maintain good employees, certain things have to be in place. To keep good quality of service, you have to have good employees. When you cut too much, the whole system falls apart. The service declines and the good employee has been lost. It’s hard to get out of that ditch. The balancing act is seeing what can be done without while maintaining the morale and quality employees. This is the backbone of what makes the system work. Some things are better left alone because you will lose in the long run.
Alderman McDowell suggested a program where vehicles are leased or mileage payback. This must be done in a way that does not pull the carpet from underneath staff. He said we need to be prepared for the future.
Alderman Fleming said that there were good ideas in the planning session where immediate action could be taken. Alderman Lembke said that if another salt storage location was planned, an immediate compliance with federal law is necessary. There would not be a 2-year window to accomplish this. He suggested retaining the format in which “Consent Items” and other things are brought to the Board. The budget is approved in concept and in generalities. When we get down to what brand, model or options, we still have a responsibility to evaluate the item. Sometimes more than 1 or 2 bids is not possible. If staff is not able to provide additional bids, the names of the companies solicited should be provided to the Board. “Consent Items” should be in a format so that when the Board sees it, the Board can quickly move through the information.
Alderman McDowell said that staff has been providing this information. He said the aldermen need to understand how the bidding process works. It’s not like going to a store where there are many choices. Some companies don’t want to bid on local government work. It’s not the profit margin that they are looking for. Once we put the item out to bid, we are at the mercy of those individuals who respond. Sometimes we are not going to get the wide range of selection of companies in the bidding process.
Alderman Fleming said he does not believe that our financial situation is unmanageable. He said we need to look at the long term options. We are always talking about flat revenues but we are still spending like we normally did. He suggested getting by with less.
Alderman McDowell said that there has to be a calculated slowing up process. You can just suddenly stop. Chairman Buermann said that we have to be prepared so that the big wave doesn’t knock us off our feet. We know it is coming but don’t know when it will hit. City Administrator Kuntz said that it’s not a matter of waiting for things to get better. They’re not going to get better. There are too many things beyond our control on the revenue side to say that if we can wait for another 6-12 months we will be okay.
City Administrator Kuntz said that we cannot continue to do business as we have in the past. We are not living in an environment with businesses knocking on our doors because they can’t wait to get here. They are here and some want to go further out to serve other areas. There is nothing we can do to reverse that trend in the economy. He said that’s why he is saying let’s not keep forcing a round peg into a square hole. Let’s pick up on our strengths; don’t cut services, improve services. We should play up what we have, retain the best, and let those who stay pay their fair share of the cost. There is no loyalty in the business community to ask what they can do to help us. We are losing a lot on commercial that won’t ever be recaptured. He said he would like to see the Board moving in a different direction.
Alderman Fleming said a commercial property tax is not something that is going to happen over night. City Administrator Kuntz said that it has more chance of success with the voters and residents of this community. He said that the last tax the people of this community supported was a change in the business license fee. It wasn’t to pay more for trash, it was to change the business license fee. He said a real estate commercial tax has the best chance of any revenue enhancement option available.
Chairman Buermann said that some services or equipment could be part of this agreement. He said the City of Chesterfield cancelled their fireworks display. City Administrator Kuntz said he suggested this for Ballwin and got shot down. Chairman Buermann said that perhaps Ellisville, Manchester and Ballwin could combine this event. City Administrator Kuntz said that he previously suggested this to the Board and he was told loud and clear NO. He said he is currently talking with Clarkson Valley about the feasibility of inspection services. We are doing street sweeping for Winchester, and talking to Winchester about mosquito fogging on a contractual basis. He said we don’t have to buy 6 golf carts, which is on the next agenda as a consent item, but they pay for themselves in 2 years. If the golf course doesn’t have this and they break down, the offsetting revenue is not there. City Administrator Kuntz said that he tries to allocate the resources that are balanced. Ballwin is not just a community of streets, or parks, or police – it’s a community of a whole variety of services brought about in a first class manner with top quality employees. To do this, we can’t always put as much in one place as we would like. Chairman Buermann said that the poor condition of the streets will probably come up on the public opinion poll very high. He predicted that there will be lower scores on the streets than last time because the streets are falling apart. He asked if there is any other type of funding mechanism that can be used. The people of Ballwin have to see illustrations how they will benefit.
City Administrator Kuntz said that we have a $5 million capital budget. 50% of that total budget goes to streets. He said he doesn’t have any more funds to work with. $2.5 million is for streets.
Alderman McDowell suggested that City Attorney Lucchesi provide information on the commercial property tax for consideration. Chairman Buermann said that every year the financial epicenter moves further west. This will deeply dig into Ballwin’s future financial and economical base.
City Administrator Kuntz said that in the “Consent Items”, the Board has always wanted to know if the item is under budget, did it meet specs, are there good references, will it do the job. He said when he interviews each member of the Board, he always asks, do you get adequate information and do you need more information. We will gladly provide more information. The staff is determined to give the Board the information it needs to make decisions.
Adjourn: A motion was made by Chairman Buermann and seconded by Alderman Fleming to adjourn. There was no further discussion and the meeting adjourned at 7:00 p.m.
Chairman Ken Buermann
Robert A. Kuntz, City Administrator