Seven people have applied to serve on a finance committee that could be called on to advise the Joplin City Council.
The council may discuss the appointments at its informal meeting at 5:15 p.m. today, said City Clerk Barbara Hogelin. There are five positions to be filled.
The proponent of the idea, Tom Franz, is one of those who have applied. Franz is a Joplin resident who is a contract financial consultant to businesses. He said he got the idea by serving on the city’s Sales Tax Oversight Committee.
“I just realized a lot of council members don’t have a finance background,” he said last year. “If you don’t, it can be hard to understand and interpret the long-term implications of financial decisions.”
Additional applicants are Russ Alcorn, of Edward Jones Investments; Dave Clark, of Downstream Casino Resort; John Groesbeck, of Missouri Southern State University; Mark Hensley, of Freeman Health System; David Heltzel, of Oasis Village; and Jennifer McKeough, an accountant and entrepreneur.
Council member Morris Glaze promoted the idea with the council, saying he favored the proposal because it could be a way for council members to have more involvement in the city’s budgeting steps.
“The city has goals, and the budget helps get to your long-term goals,” Franz said. “The council should be involved in those, especially on the front end. They should know how to use the budget to get to the goals you want to achieve.”
Franz said the finance committee would not make spending decisions. “This is just financial advice on how to make decisions,” he said.
The proposal does not mean that city workers are not doing a good job handling the city’s finances, he said. The intent is to provide advice to help the council achieve goals and weigh projects to maintain the city’s financial stability in the future.
Glaze said he and many other council members do not have extensive backgrounds in financial analysis, and that periodic discussions with finance specialists could help them make beneficial decisions.
Expert advice would be particularly helpful in dealing with key city issues such as the troubled Police and Firemen’s Pension Fund, and the tornado redevelopment financing decisions that will come in the future, Franz and Glaze said.
The funding level of the pension plan has fallen below 60 percent because of changes made a decade ago that allowed retirements at 20 years instead of 30, with refunds to the workers of the money they contributed to the plan. The city has twice made $1 million infusions to the fund to try to prop it up.
“Thirty-two or 33 cities have gone bankrupt in the last two years,” Franz said. “Every one of those cities had a council who thought they were doing the right thing. But they went bankrupt on pension issues, trash-to-energy plants and other decisions where they didn’t understand the financial implications. I don’t want to see that happen in Joplin.”
COUNCIL MEMBERS heard the proposal during an informal meeting in April and agreed to give it consideration. Later, the council agreed to appoint a committee after the start of this year.