George’s Alderman Highlights: May 07, 2012
Lake Saint Louis Ward 3 Alderman George Rich discusses topics from the May 7 board meeting.
Lakeview Storm Water Proj.: This project will cost about $0.5M and deals with storm water from O'Fallon Hills (St. Charles County) to Newport Terrace, to Blue Cove, across LSL Blvd., down Lakeview, and into the lake. It involves re-routing some utility lines. In the past the utility company paid for any re-routing of lines on city right-of-way. A recent ruling of the Missouri Supreme Court says cities should pay. Cities all over Missouri are unhappy about this ruling. We will have to increase the budget for this project to conform to this ruling. This will require further work and agreements with the utility companies.
Freymuth Road Improvement: The utility company wants money from the city; see above. If we don't start work on this project per schedule, we lose Federal money that pays for over 80% of the costs. Some in County government want us to fight this increase in court to try to over turn or mitigate the effect of the supreme court ruling mentioned above. If we decide instead to settle, and forego a court battle, it could increase costs on later projects. Settling would be far cheaper in the short term.
Next Year Budget: Next year's budget will be about $9.5M. City budget runs from June to June. Sales tax is now 43% of our revenue while real estate taxes contribute only about 20%. The last big chunk is Utility and Gas taxes. A general list of cities' tax rate is shown below. Special tax rates (higher) apply to our major commercial districts (and those in other cities) to pay for their roads and parking.
City Sales Tax Rate Property Tax Levy
Lake Saint Louis 1.5% $1.0151
General Fund $0.5951
Debt Retirement $0.4200
O’Fallon 2.0% $0.4838
St. Charles 1.5% $0.9115
St. Peters 1.6% $0.7700
Wentzville 2.5% $0.8958
For the 4th year in a row, the draft budget freezes headcount by not allowing new hires for Police, Public Works, and Parks. About 1/3rd of our budget is for Police. Our Police have the best crime solved, case-closed record in the Metro area and one of the best in the nation. They have maintained this record as our city increased almost 40%, two major retail areas opened, and I-64 was completed. All 3 Departments are stretched as our city grows, new parks opened, and street repair backlog gets worked. Increased revenue from our growth has not kept up with inflation and one time capital needs. We do maintain about $1M in emergency/reserve funds, one of the best in St. Charles County. But Cities in St. Louis County have reserve funds almost equal to one year's expenditures. For the past 3 yrs, the BOA has diverted every cent possible toward storm water fixes. I doubt we can continue that again this year and may delay some projects.
Budget items under doubt are funds for:
A Communications gear in Police cars to allow real time criminal data on suspects.
B Reconciling our city codes with the flood of state laws last done 10 yrs ago.
C Upgrades for computer equipment to avoid computer crashes of older computers
D Part time help for Courts & Parks front desk to respond to citizens entering City Hall
E A street sweeper so streets could be sweep more often
F Computer gear to coordinate & improve Public Works snow plowing
G Two vehicles for Parks and Public Works to improve timely maintenance
H Ballpark equipment to maintain good ball field conditions
We also must decide if any city employee raises are to be given and what they might be based on (cost of living or performance). Raises in the private sectors have run about 1-2% the last two years. Over all inflation is running about 2-4% so far this year. We also expect an increase in city Health care costs of about 5-10% in November. How much of that should the city pay?
I-70 Corridor Congestion: St. Charles County is trying to get a fix to the I-70 congestion that is keeping working people and businesses from locating in our area. Any changes to the "outer-roads" impact many of us and city businesses; over-pass designs, one-way streets, widening, re-surfacing. The Feds and MODOT require a lot of "studies" before they will even consider allocating money to any "new" Interstate construction. So the County is trying to jump start the process by funding a Corridor Study to show we are serious about needing help.
The County is asking cities along I-70 to help fund the study. We are asked to pay $25K toward the study; one half as much as the bigger cities. All cities must sign up to achieve the County objective. I believe Wentzville and we are the last to agree to pay. We agreed to cough up the money after some arm twisting by the County. (Who also controls lots of road money and some other pots we hope to tap into.)
Mobile Food Vendor: A vendor is asking for a city license to operate a food truck outside Lowes. Food would be prepared fresh in the truck. (Home made hot dogs and brats!) He intends to operate over the noon hour three days a week. Lowes has already agreed to allow this. We asked staff to draft an ordinance allowing his food truck for BOA review. The issue is competition with existing "fast food" stores. Some don't like more competition. Others say competition benefits everyone and is the American way. What do you think?
Editor: To read more about these issues take a look at these stories: