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Mayor Stephens Calls for City-County Planning Task Force

Stephens proposes Task Force
Mayor Stephens (Right), addresses reporters Tuesday, alongside (From left) Greene County Associate Commissioner District 2 Roseann Bentley, Associate Commissioner District 1 Harold Bengsch and Presiding Commissioner Jim Viebrock/Credit: Scott Harvey

Springfield Mayor Bob Stephens has called for the formation of a new task force comprised of city and county leaders to identify fiscal and service delivery solutions. KSMU’s Scott Harvey attended Tuesday’s press conference and has this report.

Among the issues Stephens hopes the task force can tackle is how to properly fund public safety, noting that Springfield’s current allocation of the law enforcement sales tax does not fully fund the department, requiring additional subsidies form the city.

“And we still have 55-60 frozen positions that we have not filled and haven’t been filled for the last three or four years,” the Mayor said.

Stephens says previous fiscal conversations between the two entities have focused on the city possibly relinquishing its share of the law enforcement sales tax to the county, which the Mayor opposes. According to Stephens, he hopes this new task force will help move the conversation forward in a more positive manner by developing a “menu of ideas.”

The city and county jointly operate several services, including the Springfield-Greene County Health Department; Springfield-Greene County 911 Emergency Communications; Springfield-Greene County Park Board and Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management.

Presiding Greene County Commissioner Jim Viebrock says over the last three years, the county has had to resort to several cuts in personnel.  

“Our General Revenue Budget is 25 percent less than what it was when I took office,” Viebrock says. “That’s a big chuck to cut out of a General Revenue Budget that really doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room in the first place.”

Greene County is in the midst of drafting its FY 2014 budget, which begins in January. Springfield’s fiscal year began July 1. And while the city has passed what the Mayor calls a fiscally conservative, balanced budget over the last five years, he says numerous challenges still need to be addressed.

Stephens added, “It is not in the city’s best interest for the county to be in financial difficulty, just as it’s not in the county’s best interest for the city to be going bankrupt. So on behalf of City Council and city staff, I extend, again, an invitation to the County Commission to join me in naming this task force.”

Stephens is asking the task force to present a report to City Council and the Greene County Commission by the end of the year. Part of that report will be performance metrics selected to track progress on any identified solutions. The task force’s first meeting is scheduled to take place before the end of July.

For KSMU news, I’m Scott Harvey.

 

Task Force Membership:

Five Representatives from the City of Springfield
• City Manager
• Deputy City Manager
• Assistant CityManager
• Director of Finance
• TBD – will rotate based on topic(s) discussed

Five Representatives from Greene County
• County Administrator
• Prosecuting Attorney
• County Auditor
• Budget Officer
• Sheriff’s Office representative or Highway Administrator

Topics for Discussion: Similar Challenges for the City and County

• Unfunded environmental mandates
• Stormwater funding
• Increasing employee and dependent healthcare costs
• Employee recruitment/retention/compensation
• Unfunded capital needs
• Lifecycle capital replacement costs
• Fuel costs
• Facilities for courts
• Public health funding disparity and service impact
• Public trust
• Communication with citizens, including a need for more civic engagement
• Growth planning