In a special session on March 29, the Verona City Council passed its budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year on a split vote decided by Mayor Roy Snyder. Finances and police service provided the bulk of discussion during the regular March council meeting.
Aldermen voted unanimously to not accept the proposed budget at the regular monthly meeting and reconsider issues in a special session.
According to Budget Officer and Clerk Julie Ruscha, the biggest question came in projecting revenues. Sales tax for the past year was down 25 percent. At the same time, court fines and forfeitures ended the year 52 percent over projections, leaving $14,533 over budget.
The city budgeted $10,893 in miscellaneous funds for supplies and other unexpected needs. The proposed budget left a cushion of $3,676 for the coming year, Ruscha said.
Essential and discretionary spending changed very little between the two years. Discussion centered on a proposal to add 10 extra hours for part-time police officers, which stayed in the budget.
The budget called for applying revenues from the capital improvements sales tax as matching funds in pursuing a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for street and drainage improvements, as well as purchase of street maintenance equipment. Cleaning, videotaping and repairing the storm sewer system. A major planned expense is $7,000 to have city ordinances recodified by Sullivan Publications.
Ruscha pointed out for the last three years, city spending has exceeded income by more than $45,000 in 2009-10. Aldermen kept an optimistic view of the economic turnaround and decided sales tax revenues would improve by around $2,300 or 10 percent over the last fiscal year.
The proposed budget has a number of line items changes instituted to more directly reflect spending. Ruscha told The Times the city has historically paid a lot of bills from the sewer fund and reimbursed the amount from the general fund. The new budget spreads items like staff labor and health insurance to more departments.
The sewer budget is projecting American Dehydrated Foods will come on the city's system for 10 months of the year, though the connection date has not been set. Ruscha indicated the reallocation of labor expenses for sewer related work placed expenses at $12,000 more than projected sewer income, despite an increase in sewer rates in September 2009.
In the end, Aldermen Robert Baker and Deborah Snyder voted in favor of the budget while Lloyd Airrington and Matt Pruente voted against. Mayor Snyder cast the deciding vote to adopt the plan.
At the monthly meeting, aldermen agreed with Airrington to delay renewing Police Chief Joe Powell's contract. The police chief's post will be considered along with the fire chief, city attorney and municipal judge when the city council reorganizes following the April election.
Two residents spoke at the beginning of the meeting offering comments critical of Powell and the police department. Powell offered a review of his 14 months on the job.
"I was told in the employment interview that we need law enforcement. You get it ,and you don't like it," Powell said.
The chief said he believed more people were pleased than were displeased with police activity. Powell planned to continue patrolling on Highway 60 and working with Officer Scott Tidyman in pursuing grants for the department.
Aldermen discussed getting city crews out to fill potholes around town.
Sewer Department Superintendent Ron Greenwood reported the lift station on Ella Street had to have a pump replaced to repair an impeller.
Aldermen voted to hold the May council meeting on May 18. The change will accommodate the absence of Ruscha, who will be attending the Missouri Association for Court Administrators spring training session. The next council meeting will be on April 27.
Ruscha reported the Verona City Hall has been set up as a Census questionnaire assistance center. A census worker is available on Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30 to 4 p.m. through the middle of April.
Former council member Peggy Paynter recommended council members explore using space in the fire station rather than purchasing a maintenance building as discussed for storage.
Michael Haynes questioned regulations on manufactured homes while citing specifics about a structure next to property he owns. Ruscha researched the matter and found the manufactured home in question had been in place for 10 years and was grandfathered from the regulations named.