Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 120
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for January 3, 2002

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

Ive had a chance to peruse the City of Warrensburg budget, as approved by the City Council on December 18. There are three areas I want to examine in more detail: fire and ambulance, the community center, and the cent sales tax; I have questions about how funds are allocated.

Fire and ambulance are handled as two separate cost centers, although the same people predominantly do both jobs out of the same buildings. The city allocates utilities, building maintenance and central dispatch fees (about $45,000) to the fire function. Other direct and indirect costs are separately allocated. This is normal. The allocation of personnel costs is what raises questions. Personnel costs allocated to the fire function were $1.16 million in both FY2000 and FY2001; the budget for FY2002 is $1.06 million. On the ambulance side, personnel costs were $485,000 in FY2000, $523,000 in FY2001; the budget for FY2002 is $698,000. My question does the reallocation of personnel costs reflect a changing balance of operations or does it have something to do with the ambulance district election in April?

Community center revenue is projected at $169,000, about the same as FY2001. Expenses are projected at $568,000. The operating loss at the community center has grown from $315,000 in FY2000 to $349,000 in FY2001 to an expected $398,000 in FY2002. Without the $40,000 donation that some members of the Park Board want to spend to paint the walls, the deficit would be $438,000. Notable among the costs is an almost 50% increase in full-time employee expense and a slight increase in temporary employee cost.

The cent sales tax fund is the money voted to support the bonds used to build the community center and east fire station. It has generated over $1 million each of the last 3 years and is projected to generate $1.15 million for FY2002. The annual surplus in excess of debt service needs (which have decreased because the city wisely refinanced the bonds at a lower interest rate) will grow to $470,000. In past years, most of the surplus has been given to the park department; in FY2002 about half will; the remaining $230,000 is being retained to build the fund balance.

Summarizing, the cent sales tax was voted for construction for the Community Center and Fire Department. The surplus of tax receipts over bond needs is being used to support the community center. The community center is increasing personnel costs for recreational activities. The fire department, responsible for life safety, is taking a personnel cut. Do you see the logic in this?

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