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Raytown budget cuts pay off with expected increase in general fund

Posted: 4:49 PM, Oct 16, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-17 01:00:28Z

RAYTOWN, Mo. — UPDATE 8 PM 10/16/2018: The Raytown City Council approved the budget at their meeting Tuesday night with no discussion. 

The council decided to hold off on voting on the TIF.

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A year ago this month marks a challenging time for the city of Raytown, which found itself in the middle of a nearly $3 million budget shortfall in 2017.

The crisis led city officials to cut $2.7 million from the Raytown Police Department , resulting in 17 officers leaving the force.

The news dominated conversations on social media and at local businesses like Fox's Drugstore and Soda Fountain.

"Where's the money? Where's it going? I don't know, that seemed to be what people were saying," said owner/operator Nancy Lyon. 

This week the city again finds itself considering a budget for the next fiscal year, but the outlook is much less grim.

According to the proposed 2018-19 budget, last year's cuts are expected to result in the first increase in the city's general fund since 2014.

"Staff has been very cognizant of controlling costs in the 2017-18 budget," assistant city administrators Damon Hodges and Missy Wilson wrote in a letter to aldermen.

41 Action News wanted to speak with either Hodges or Wilson, who serve as the city's public information officers, but they denied a request for an interview Tuesday. 

"I feel the appropriate time for city staff to comment on the fiscal year 2019 budget is after the Board of Alderman has approved a budget," Wilson wrote in an email. 

Wilson offered to schedule an interview after the vote, which was requested.

41 Action News also reached out to all of the aldermen. Only one, Derek Ward, responded to messages, saying that city staff has presented a sound budget.

"Absent any change in circumstances or any unexpected revelations, I anticipate voting in support of the proposed budget," Ward wrote in an email before the meeting. 

Although no one at City Hall would speak with 41 Action News on Tuesday, a reporter did sit down with the Raytown Fire Protection District, which is receiving city dollars in the budget.

"Our mission statement is simply we exist to help those in need, so all the tax dollars spent go to providing those services exclusively," Fire Chief Matt Mace said.

Last month, aldermen voted to transfer EMS to the fire department. The city will fund the services until voters approve the transfer and an accompanying levy. 

Mace met with city officials twice to come up with a $1.35 million budget for EMS for the coming year. That includes some upfront costs like equipment and training for new employees. 

"That's how we arrived at our number, and it was within $50,000 of what they're currently spending," he said. 

Aldermen will have more than just the budget to consider Tuesday. They will also vote to refinance the controversial $39 million TIF deal that involves Walmart.