Chamois aldermen approve surplus FY 25 budget, but grapple with how to make it work

By Theresa Brandt, UD Staff Writer
Posted 7/3/24

CHAMOIS — Chamois aldermen approved a surplus budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year at their June 19 meeting. One of seven options presented by City Treasurer Theresa Walter, the budget estimates …

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Chamois aldermen approve surplus FY 25 budget, but grapple with how to make it work


CHAMOIS — Chamois aldermen approved a surplus budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year at their June 19 meeting. One of seven options presented by City Treasurer Theresa Walter, the budget estimates income of $264,789 and expenses of $242,760, for a $22,029 surplus.

Revenues are as follows: account interest ($332), cemetery donations ($100), ATV/UTV licenses ($300), business licenses ($700), park ($1,090), sewer ($81,926), franchise tax ($23,976), motor fuel tax ($13,293), motor vehicle fee increases ($1,854), motor vehicle sales tax ($4,142), property taxes ($22,505), sales taxes ($13,666), trash ($26,825), utility deposits ($1,550), utility reconnection fees ($200), water ($70,768), primacy fees ($571), and water tax ($991).

Expenses include audit ($6,500), outside accountants ($1,500), city treasurers salary ($13,500), advertising ($1,500), equipment expenses ($2,500), gasoline ($1,800), crime policy ($1,500), property and liability insurance ($13,000), workmen’s compensation ($5,000), legal fees ($20,000), locate fees ($400), membership dues and subscriptions ($1,200), municipal election expenses ($1,500), municipal lights ($10,860), office phone and internet ($2,350), office supplies ($5,600), website ($425), postage ($2,000), ball park lights ($650), campground ($400), wood pole light ($110), park maintenance ($700), aldermen salaries ($2,460), city clerk salary ($13,500), city marshal ($14,400), Division of Employment Security ($300), mayor’s salary ($1,825), part-time maintenance wages ($28,230), payroll taxes ($7,000), Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fees, lagoon electric ($4,775), electric for lift near park ($1,250), electric for the main pump station ($150), electric for Rt. K pump station  ($360), sewer loan repayment ($12,000), subcontractor sewer maintenance  ($7,200), sewer testing ($5,000), streets ($4,000), training ($500), trash service ($26,825), primacy fee ($500), electric for water E-first ($950), electric for water for pump #1 ($700), electric for water at the Hwy. 100/89 junction ($290), electric for water on Market Street ($2,450), electric for water for pump two on Market Street ($150), electric for water tower ($300), subcontract water maintenance repairs ($6,000), chlorination for water ($1,200), and water testing ($7,200).

Walter was not happy with any of the budget options. She explained that revenues for all the options did not change but she manipulated the expenses to try to give the city more of a surplus in case of emergencies.

Walter suggested cutting the city treasurer’s hours in half to save money.

Unterrified Democrat Reporter Theresa Brandt asked Walter if she felt that was enough hours to do the work for the position.

“I don’t feel like it does,” said Mayor Marie Slusser.

“It doesn’t really matter how anyone feels about it,” Walter said. “We have to do what is best for the city.”

Walter offered to turn in her resignation for the city to save additional money. She also suggested that aldermen cut City Clerk Meghan Birmingham’s hours in half.

Brandt asked why Walter thought that the best thing for the city was to eliminate the treasurer’s position.

“It’s not the best answer; it’s the only answer,” Walter said.

“Since Theresa has been here, things have been great,” Birmingham said of the treasurer. “Having her here is wonderful. I want her to stay; that’s why I’m willing to cut my hours to fight for the treasurer’s position.”

Alderman Lacey Garrett said that she believed that would be cutting too many office hours.

“No matter how you look at this budget, it’s not good,” Walter said. “There is no way the city can operate when anything can happen, and we don’t have the money to cover it. We can’t run a city like that.”

“So, this doesn’t include anything if there are emergencies?” Garrett asked.

“No, and this only works if we stick to the budget,” Walter said. “We can’t have any surprises, and that just doesn’t happen. I’ve really been trying to find the answer. With the streets the way they are, no one expected to find a hole in the street; no one expected multiple water leaks; and no one expected the bathrooms to be leaking.”

Garrett said that there was no money in the budget for kids’ activities or fireworks.

“Meramec Regional Planning Committee (MRPC) came down and worked with us on this budget last night,” Birmingham said. “She said we had no choice except to figure out how to make this work.”

Slusser asked if Walter included all revenues in the budget.

Walter assured her that the revenues were accurate.

Alderman Cheyanna Wolfe suggested that the city could get rid of City Marshal Riley Lewis.

“I know we have come this far, but it’s a lot of money out of our pocket,” Wolfe said.  “If we are going to have a problem enforcing ordinances and we get rid of Riley, and we get rid of all those legal fees, how much would that save us? I hate to do that because we’ve come so far, but is it going to be worth it in the end?”

“If we don’t have Riley, everything at the apartments is going to get worse,” Slusser said. “That is a problem.”

Birmingham reminded aldermen that they have signed contracts with Lewis and Amanda Grellner to process tickets and ordinance violations.

“We have to figure it out,” Slusser said. “We’re going to have to rob Peter to pay Paul.”

“The way I’m looking at it, you don’t have any options,” Walter said. “I would prefer to resign and not get fired.”

“I would prefer you not to go at all,” Slusser said.

Birmingham agreed.

It was suggested that water and sewer rates be increased.

“We already have to do that as part of the water project,” Birmingham explained.

“Everybody is going to be all kinds of upset because we had to raise rates two years ago,” Slusser said. “People are going to go back to not paying their bills.”

“We can’t continue the water project without raising our rates,” Birmingham insisted. “We don’t have any choice.”

Slusser suggested that they hire one full-time licensed and certified maintenance person so the city could eliminate part-time positions, Mid Missouri Environmental, and the payments to Summit Mechanical for fixing water leaks.

Slusser had no idea how to find someone with those qualifications willing to work for the city.

“We need more income to offset the expenses,” Slusser said. “Maybe the tickets that Riley writes might offset the cost of him alone.”

Birmingham and Riley said that the city could expect to have no more than $300 to $600 in total receipts per month for tickets and ordinance violations.

“That doesn’t even cover Riley’s salary,” said Garrett.

Lewis said the city is likely to owe more money than it makes in prosecuting tickets and ordinance violations.

“A lot of citizens want Riley to be here because it does make a difference,” Birmingham said.

Slusser asked how past mayors managed finances.

Brandt responded that the budget has always been an issue since she has been covering city meetings and that past mayors have sometimes had to make tough decisions because there wasn’t enough money to do everything.

“I think it is easy to bash past mayors and aldermen, but they couldn’t fit everything into the budgets,” Brandt said. “There has always been a limited amount of money.”

Slusser asked if the city could investigate different grants.

“Most of the grants that we’ve been finding are matching grants, and the matches are pretty high,” Birmingham said.

Slusser said that the city could annex additional property for extra money.

“Everyone is going to fight that,” said Alderman Cole Schaben.

Walter said that since the budget is a working document, aldermen could choose to maintain everything as is. If things needed to be adjusted as the fiscal year wore on or as emergencies arose, they could do so.

Garrett agreed, noting that eliminating the city treasurer position and cutting the city clerk’s hours did not make that big of a difference in the budget.

“Let’s ride with it,” Schaben said. “We can’t get rid of Riley. He has too big of an impact on our community. We’ve gained momentum with Meghan and Theresa. We can’t stop what we started. Let’s try to cut our spending and really look at what we are spending money on.”

The adopted budget will maintain all city employees at their current hours and pay rates. Walter based the budget on historical data for the city, along with the adjustments the city had to make to the budget last fiscal year.