JC Budget Talks Center Around Personnel

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JEFFERSON CITY - Jefferson City's administrator said the police department, fire department, and public works have vacancies that, due to a lack of tax revenue, city government can't afford to fill.

No matter what the council decides for the 2014 fiscal year, Nathan Nickolaus said, public services will have to make do with fewer employees.

"About 75 percent of our budget gets spent on personnel," Nickolaus said. "So in order to make cuts, some of that has to come out of personnel, and right now, we've had to cut in every department, and we're short policemen, firemen, street workers, code enforcement workers, everywhere."

The cut goes beyond "trimming the fat," Nickolaus said. In recent years, money has been pulled from equipment, materials, and other sectors of the budget, he said. Leaving positions open is a last resort for the city to save money, he said.

Police Captain Doug Shoemaker said consistently falling budgets have caused the department to make changes, such as cutbacks for training. However, with fewer officers, Shoemaker said there is concern about the future of operations.

"Close to 90 percent of our funds, that come into the police department, are directly attributed to personnel costs," Shoemaker said. "So, when the money pool gets shorter, we have a problem, and that‘s keeping as many officers on the road as we need to adequately staff the city."

The vacancies are one of several concerns raised since the mayor proposed his budget just a few weeks ago.

Nickolaus said he is worried about the potential inability to fill positions higher up. With no raise in city salaries, he said, and costs going up due to health care prices and inflation, Jefferson City is no longer drawing the same applicant pool to city positions.

Shoemaker said since budget deliberations are in their earliest stage, he hopes there will be a plan to account for the low revenues and personnel cuts by October, when the final budget is approved.

He said the department would look internally to restructure its own funding so the level of service will not change in response to budget cuts. Shoemaker said the department would do the best job it can with the resources it is given.