Sunday, July 6, 2008
News and Views
New Formula for Sewer Bill Rates? At the last meeting of the Board of Aldermen I brought forward a discussion on sewer bill rates. The issue at hand was how residential sewer tax rates are established. The current practice uses what is called a four month “winter average” to set prices. The months used are November through February. I proposed that the city change to a two-month average using either a December/January or January/February schedule since November is not really a winter month. There is little doubt that using November as an average “winter month” will inflate the cost for those who use water for outdoor purposes during that time. Changing to a two-month period will bring equity and fairness to the system. In the ensuing discussion there was not any opposition to investigating the change. City Finance Director Jeremy Wilmoth told the Board Aldermen that he will look into the matter and should be able to report his findings in the near future. Board Priorities for Fiscal 08/09: A recent retreat by the Raytown Board of Aldermen held at the Teetering Rocks Golf Course left some definite impressions. One area the Board heard about was the need for more emphasis on street maintenance. As anyone who travels Raytown’s streets are painfully aware, street maintenance has taken a back seat for far too long at City Hall. Severe cuts in the amount of funds set aside for street overlay, curb replacement and sidewalk repair in the past two years has put the city in this predicament. To address this problem the Board must reset its priorities when it comes to spending. The issue is complicated if a new Walmart is opened on 350 Highway. It is estimated that 18% of the city’s transportation sales tax will be used to pay off part of the debt created by the TIF used to finance the shopping center. City sales tax dollars will pay on that debt for the next 23 years. Travel Expenses: One area the city can save some tax dollars is in the area of travel. In fiscal 2006/2007 the City or Raytown spent $109,564.93 on travel. The pace of spending on travel has not abated. In fact, as of June 30th, the city has spent close to $60,000 on travel. At that rate the amount spent could very well eclipse last year’s expenditures. Some travel is necessary. For instance, Municipal Court employees are required by state law to attend certain conferences to keep them up to date on Missouri statutes. However, in this day of on demand electronic communication it is possible for individuals to attend conferences via the internet and through other correspondence. Until city fathers right the good ship Raytown, the Board of Aldermen should throttle back on the amount of money spent on travel. City Adminstrator's Discretionary Spending: Under the city’s current code the City Administrator has the authority to spend up to $10,000 per purchase without specific Board approval. When this authority was established, then City Administrator Curt Wenson made a practice of notifying Board members of his intent to spend the money. If any Board member did not approve, the question was taken to the entire Board for approval. Two city administrators later, the practice has been discontinued. The Board should re-institute what was a good system of check and balance. It’s the Economy . . . The metropolitan Kansas City area, like most of the country, is feeling the effect of an economy weakened by a mortgage crisis and inflationary fuel costs. Until those twin demons are brought under control look for tight economic times at Raytown City Hall. In the meantime, the Board of Aldermen should refocus its attention to maintenance and upgrading of our city’s infrastructure. The maintenance of our neighborhood streets, improvements to public safety through additional street lighting and like areas that are more people friendly are the best ways to address the current economic downturn. More clearly stated, ride out the storm and take care of business.