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Council to begin budget discussions

It appears the city’s tight budget is getting tighter.
The Richmond City Council will begin preliminary discussions tonight on budgetary adjustments.
According to the financial figures included in the council packet, the city is over budget by more than $700,000, in large part due to the new municipal complex.
That line item shows a deficit of $630,000. The city’s water and wastewater numbers are also in the red according to the budget.
The financial report says, “(The) original budget assumed (the municipal complex) project would be finished last year.”
It also says the amended amount includes year-to-date expenses plus estimates for the fire station parking lot.
The report lists some additional non-budget items that were approved by the council since the budget was approved last September. The report lists $75,000 in sewer line and manhole repair, $30,000 for lime sludge removal and $2,000 reclassified from other expenses for exercise equipment for the police department.
Mayor Lance Green also alluded to an upcoming state audit in his last letter to residents last week, and said the city did not budget for it, although the signatures were delivered to Jefferson City around budget time and council members were aware of the likelihood an audit would happen. That will be another extra expense of at least $20,000.
The city’s lime sludge problem has not gone away yet either. At the city’s last meeting two weeks ago, City Administrator Rick Childers told the council that the city has received word from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that they will likely issue a violation notice to the city for the lack of dry lime sludge removal.
The city spent $30,000 last month to remove about half of the city’s liquid lime sludge. The company contracted to remove the lime sludge submitted a proposal to the city to remove the remaining liquid lime sludge for an additional $30,000 that the company was willing to defer payment until next October. The council took no action.
At the last meeting, resident Jim Nolker said he and his son could remove the remaining amount of sludge for about $5,000 less.
As of yesterday, Childers said he had not heard from Nolker, but said the city would be willing to listen to any proposal. However, he said money is tight right now and the funding may not be available to spend.
The city may not have a choice, however, if DNR decides to levy a fine against the city.
DNR Field Agent Leonard Johnson said he is familiar with the Richmond situation. He said although he is not working on the case, a variety of things can happen, but any city’s track record is a major factor. Leonard said the department is aware that city staff has asked for funding on more than one occasion and were turned down.
“If it’s a continuation of neglect and not rectified, there’s a possibility it could be referred to our enforcement division,” Johnson said in his opinion. “If the staff has asked for the funds and the city is unable to provide the funds then that becomes an issue the city should reevaluate their business practices and make whatever adjustments they need to so they can appropriately afford to maintain their facility.”
He said if the city takes care of the problem it will still show as a violation in the city’s file but would be noted that the problem was rectified.

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