Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Slower Growth Means Tightening Budget, Irvin Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Slower Growth Means Tightening Budget, Irvin Says

Article excerpt

St. Peters City Administrator Robert Irvin says the city must become more fiscally conservative as its growth slows.

In a budget message presented to the Board of Aldermen, Irvin said the general-fund balance "is dropping to its lowest ebb in many years" while growth has slowed significantly. Irvin said St. Peters had transferred more than $9 million of reserve funds to pay for current capital improvement projects.

"Accordingly, it will become more difficult for St. Peters officials to set program priorities and balance out the annual budget," Irvin wrote. "Given this scenario, conservative fiscal management becomes imperative as the city's growth rate diminishes and the community matures."

The total budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 will exceed $48 million.

When the budget was drawn up, St. Peters had a $1.7 million general-fund balance, which Irvin called "inadequate for a community of our size." He recommended that any surplus from the current fiscal year go directly into that fund "to establish an adequate reserve. Significant sums have been invested in major seed projects. The city must now await the fruit during this austere period."

Mayor Tom Brown concurred with the budget summary prepared by Irvin and Tim Wilkinson, the city's financial planner.

"We're tight," Brown said. Sales-tax revenues "were not what we thought they would be."

Brown said some of his wishes - such as the Old Historical Farm and a new indoor soccer facility - probably would have to go on the back burner.

Alderman Len Pagano, 3rd Ward, said St. Peters might want to take another look at the ordinance passed last month to expand the police department by 31 officers in the next four years. Irvin estimated that the cost would be $1.24 million for the 31 new officers.

Wilkinson said there would be no particular budget problems generated by the new officers this year "but as time goes by and you keep adding" the budget could be squeezed.

A bill approving the budget was given preliminary approval at last week's meeting. …

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