By Jeff Gallatin
Mayor Kevin Kennedy’s proposed 2014 municipal budget focuses on bringing in staff – including one familiar face – and working with lower levels of revenue for the city.
“We are moving forward while working within our means,” Kennedy said Saturday while referring to his administration’s budget proposal at a special meeting of City Council’s Finance Committee. “We are still adjusting to lower levels of revenues, including real estate valuation declines, the local government cuts and the elimination of the estate tax. We have reviewed rate increases in certain fees and permits. I implemented the mayor’s court, which provided a net increase in revenues of $250,000.”
Kennedy said he plans to bring in Don Copeland, a former longtime community services and human resources director for the city, for the second time. Copeland will again work part time at the Springvale Golf Course and Ballroom. Kennedy initially brought the retired Copeland in part time during the first year of the mayor’s administration four years ago to review operations at Springvale. This time, with the recent departure of longtime Springvale manager Marty Young, who took a job with Davey Tree’s golf course division, Copeland will help run the facility temporarily while again looking for ways to make it more efficient.
“Don’s experience is invaluable, both in his knowledge of golf, as well as of Springvale and city operations,” Kennedy said. “This will not be a permanent situation, but he can help keep things running smoothly while we determine how to make Springvale run best over the long haul.”
Kennedy said Copeland will be working 20 to 25 hours per week and will be paid on an hourly basis.
The budget also includes provisions for replacing two retiring fire lieutenants, who are scheduled to leave later this year. The promotional process is already underway. A test will be set up to bring in two new firefighters to fill the positions vacated by the firefighters who will be promoted to lieutenant.
Kennedy noted that the police department and wastewater treatment plant will also fill vacant positions in the course of the year.
“It’s an ongoing process for the city,” Kennedy said.
He said despite the lower revenues, the city is doing what it has to do to stay financially sound.
He noted the department employee groups – clerical, fire, nonbargaining units, police, service and technical – all received 2-percent pay hikes. He said other costs have also gone up.
“Hospitalization has gone up 31 percent,” he said. “However, most line items reflect a 42 to 44 percent increase, because, as you may recall, we only funded 11 months of expense last year, and utilized fund balances in the hospitalization fund. This increases the percentage change from the prior year to the higher percentage.”
Finance Committee Chairman Kevin Kearney said he and other council members believe Kennedy’s administration presented a sound budget.
“It’s pretty solid,” Kearney said. “They’re doing a good job with what they’ve got. The mayor is bringing police and fire to replace ones that are leaving, which is good for all of us.”
Kearney said he believes the financial picture will get better.
“We’re reducing the debt in the city over several years,” he said. “They’ve been doing a good job of that. Springvale will be paid off in a few years, and we’ve been reducing the amount of borrowing we do for the street projects. We just have to keep working on it.”
Kearney said he anticipates the budget will be passed shortly with no major changes.