A Recovery Plan for our Local Economy
The City of Excelsior Springs is not immune to the financial effects of COVID-19. Like all of our neighboring cities, we are developing a financial plan to help ensure that the City sustains delivery of services. We cannot predict how long this disruption in our economy will last but are acting quickly to preserve cash by holding off on purchases/projects and adjusting spending levels.
As a service organization, most of our expenses are personnel – indeed, personnel makes up 79% of General Fund expenses. As a service organization, our most valuable resource is our dedicated employees. I do not want to lose any of them, so have developed a multi-step approach.
It is important to note that we have a delay in receiving cash. For example, in April the City received its January sales taxes. The economic downturn began in mid-March, and the City will receive its March/April sales taxes in July. While we will not know the full extent of the impact until then, there is no reason to believe that Excelsior Springs will not see decreased sales tax revenues.
The Police and Fire Departments’ budgets represent 75% of the General Fund. Accordingly, it is not feasible for these two departments to remain financially untouched. And yes, it is possible to still preserve the public’s safety.
Our plan is to act quickly, but with calm.
- We asked departments to cut all discretionary spending;
- We initially asked departments to work-out schedules to move to a 32 hour work week and associated 20% pay cut;
- We received feedback from the Police and Fire Departments that they should not be included in this pay reduction and work week adjustment;
- Upon further review, we have determined that an across-the-board 10% pay reduction with no change in work hours was a prudent course of action to take, and we are in the process of implementing this pay reduction. Many other cities and companies have likewise implemented pay reductions.
- We intended to comment on the City’s finances in light of the COVID-19 pandemic when the plan was finalized, but we are sharing this information now in response to some misinformation that has been circulated on various social media platforms throughout the community. We feel that it is important that residents and business owners be provided with facts.
We recognize the survey circulated by change.org as a media campaign to save public safety claimed to be released by the FOP, which oddly enough has just requested the City recognize them as the Police Department’s Collective Bargaining Unit. We have enjoyed a professional relationship with the FOP so far and look forward to continuing to do so, and we are skeptical of the FOP’s actual involvement. In any event, comments that the City has diverted funds from the Public Safety Sales Tax to the Water Department are objectively false. Not only are the comments false, but they serve only to mislead and confuse the public. Again, we feel that it is important that residents and business owners be provided facts. The City is committed to financial transparency and accountability. Feel free to contact City Hall or your elected official if you have any questions. Many financial documents are also available on the City’s website.
The State Auditor’s Office is close to concluding its audit of the City as a result of a citizen’s petition. The Audit’s cost will be borne by the City and is still unknown. While I appreciate that the public deserves access to options such as petition audits to protect the public’s trust, this is an example intended to force the City to continue a benefit to a small group, resulting in the City spending beyond its means.
Excelsior Springs was one of 1,000 other cities surveyed by the National League of Cities indicating that reductions would probably affect their local police departments and other public safety agencies. Your City leadership knows the highest priorities in our City are public safety and maintenance of our public works.
As I stated at the beginning, the City is not immune to the financial effects of COVID-19. We have all been financially impacted over the last 5-6 weeks, directly or indirectly. Over the next several months, we intend to keep a close eye on the City’s economic activity and financial condition and, if warranted, make further spending adjustments. To do otherwise is irresponsible, both in the short-term and the long-term.
We are incredibly lucky to have missed the health crisis we have watched in the news, and our work is not over, care is still needed until a cure is found. As we begin to emerge from our houses, our attention is turned to the ECONOMY RECOVERY at hand.