A last-ditch effort to squeeze through a compensation increase by some members of the outgoing Lee's Summit City Council was unsuccessful, conventional wisdom may dictate that topic being of utmost importance to our new mayor and Council as they officially begin the new term.
And, in many ways, compensation and, most importantly, how to pay for it, should be at or near the top of their list. Of course, there are many other issues this new council will have to tackle.
Compensation and competitive pay hasn’t remotely hit a “crisis” level, regardless of what some Council members may say. If we’re being honest with ourselves, how we fund a fair compensation plan is just as compelling and responsible a topic as the raises themselves.
Mayor-elect Bill Baird and a few Council members were elected, in large part, due to support from the local public safety unions. Those unions will expect those they supported to pass some sort of raise quickly out of the gate. It’s that lethal of a topic right now. In fact, it likely cost Diane Seif her seat.
What’s interesting is, re-elected 4th District council member Bob Johnson has never been one to spend recklessly and in his previous terms on Council has been beyond vocal on that very topic.
The notion that Johnson is going to vote for any compensation plan that dips into reserves or isn’t responsibly funded — regardless of what unions supported him — is ludicrous.
Whichever way this goes, a discussion of raising taxes is likely to be on the Council agenda soon. The body would have until May 26 to put any such initiative (sales tax, property tax, use tax) on the August ballot for voter consideration. And if they do, the Council had better be prepared to aggressively sell it. Independence and Blue Springs just failed use taxes in their cities on April 3. A similar initiative passed in Liberty.
Employee pay isn’t the only pressing matter in front of the elected body. The now five-year-old, voter-approved downtown Lee’s Summit performance space continues to be a project in need of a move from the back-burner to the front.
Since money is on everyone’s mind right now, spending additional funds (over an above) what was approved by voters may not seem like a high priority to some. According to city officials, this project is going to cost well over the initial $600,000 price tag. In fact, some of those funds have already been used for studies and other costs.
In all reality, this is a $1.2 million or higher project that is going to take some creativity to complete. The city hasn’t completed all land acquisition in front of City Hall, either. At some point, it may be worth the City and the downtown partners going back to look at the property behind the Historical Society Museum between SW Main and Market streets.
And while we’re talking about money, there is some light at the end of the Cass County tunnel as it relates to money owed back to Lee’s Summit.
Back in 2012, it was discovered that the Missouri Department of Revenue misdirected $966,000 in sales taxes to Cass County instead of going into the coffers of Lee’s Summit. Had the courts (and Cass County) settled this in timely fashion, a lump sum could have been paid to Lee’s Summit to finalize the matter.
Instead, six years later, Cass County is now on a monthly payment plan $26,852 to Lee’s Summit. With no interest figured in, that plan (which started in February) should pay off the debt in around three years.
What the city does with an extra $322,000 a year for the next three years is anyone’s guess. That money could be earmarked already.
If not, expect to see some jockeying on the dais for the best use of those dollars.
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.