The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 28, 2013

Carthage officials consider conservative spending plan

By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer

CARTHAGE, Mo. — When he was thinking about running for office more than three years ago, Mayor Mike Harris said his two biggest concerns were the nation’s economic outlook and Renewable Environmental Solutions.

The Carthage plant had a history of odor problems so severe that it prompted the city to join the state in a lawsuit against the operation.

“RES doesn’t stink anymore, but the economy still does,” Harris told the Carthage City Council’s Budget Ways and Means Committee last week as it began to revise the city budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Harris and Tom Short, city administrator, both fear city revenues will be flat for the coming year.

“We can’t spend more than we have, so we’re going to have to be very frugal,” Harris said.

Committee members endorsed the mayor’s sentiment and will recommend to the council an annual budget that estimates general fund spending at just over $8 million, down 2.4 percent from the current year. Most city activities are financed through the general fund. The city predicts it will take in general fund revenues of nearly $7.7 million and spend about $300,000 in reserve funds to balance the plan.

General fund reserves are estimated at more than $4 million to start the year. That includes nearly $1.9 million set aside for emergencies.

Final committee action on the spending plan is set for May 13.

Total personnel costs for the city are estimated at $6 million, compared with $5.8 million this year, even though the budget doesn’t include funding for new workers or salary hikes for employees.

Short said officials are expecting a 13 percent increase in group health insurance costs, a 15 percent increase in workers’ compensation insurance rates, a 10 percent increase in city contributions to the police and fire pension program, and a 12 percent increase in pension costs for other general city workers.

The budget includes $70,000 for design and engineering for a new south substation for the Carthage Fire Department, but it allocates nothing for land or construction. Funding will come from a new fire safety sales tax estimated to generate $480,000, with most of the remainder budgeted toward repaying loans for new storm warning sirens and a new pumper truck.

Rising fees

The proposed budget trims by $10,000 the amount of city support going to the Carthage Municipal Golf Course and proposes a fee increase of $2 per round.