Neosho Mayor Richard Davidson gave a budget overview during a quarterly town hall meeting Tuesday night.
The event was held in the Neosho Golf Course Clubhouse, located at 1850 Clubhouse Road in Neosho. About 30 people were on hand for the session, which was hosted by Davidson.
The presentation included a review of the city’s $16.3 million budget, which went into effect Oct. 1.
The budget reflects $15.3 million in overall revenue and $10.6 million in expenditures from general revenue, which covers police, fire, streets, parks, and city administration, as well as other city departments. The document also includes $4.96 million in expenditures for the city’s water / wastewater department, which is separate from the general fund.
Davidson said the city is currently about $28 million in debt, including some $15.266 million in water and wastewater improvements made in recent years, and $12.8 million in enterprise debt.
Since 2010, the mayor said, many inroads have been made in financial reporting. During the administration of previous City Manager Jan Blase, Davidson said, council members’ financial reports included only a register of checks written. Expenditures were not reconciled in accordance with accounting principles, and city council members had no idea which bank account the checks were written on or if there were funds in the accounts to cover the checks.
“As of 2009, when the auditors came, we hadn’t done any reconciling, and they spent the first several days of their audit just reconciling,” Davidson said.
Today, the city stands on firm financial footing, the mayor said, with $9.3 million in reserves in the bank and nearly $2 million in the general fund.
“It was nothing in the fall of 2009,” he said. “We have 188 days worth of cash in the bank. If revenues dried up to zero tomorrow, we could operate for 188 days.”
The budget has drawn opposition from two council members, David Ruth and Steve Hart, neither of whom were at Tuesday’s session. In past interviews with the Daily News, the two have said they were against the budget because it included about $1 million in deficit spending and because part of the revenues are derived from a city-wide sales tax.
The budget also includes nearly $1 million in expenditures for the city police department, including $901,000 for salaries, $60,000 for fuel, and about $15,000 for prisoner care at the Newton County Jail.
This last figure dropped somewhat from 2013 figures, Davidson said, as City Judge Andy Wood is sentencing fewer people to jail time. Instead, he is granting more community service sentences.
The Neosho Fire Department, funded partially by a fire tax, includes $960,000 for personnel. Davidson also reported the fire department will take delivery of a new fire truck “any time now” to replace a 1979 pumper truck.
The budget also contains funds for street improvements under the city’s five year improvement plan.
The mayor also went over highlights from the past 18 months. These include:
• A new fire truck;
• Avoiding budget cuts in police and fire;
• The establishment of quarterly town hall meetings;
• A parks plan;
• A conference on synthetic marijuana, and area departments eradicating “syn” from area stores. However, the mayor warned, a new drug — tablets laced with THC, the chemical compound that creates the “high” from marijuana. The tablets are believed to be coming out of Colorado;
• The renovation of the stairs at Big Spring Park, at a cost of $47,000;
• The Morse Park walking trail;
• Water quality improvements;
• Road renovations at Walmart and Missouri Highway 59;
• Airport lighting renovations after lights were damaged by storms in May 2011.
Davidson also gave a list of projects to “watch for.” Among these:
• Street repairs on Industrial Drive, south of Malcolm Mosby; High Street; Spring Street;
• Drainage improvements at Hale McGinty;
• Replacing a septic tank at Morse Park with a sewer line;
• Planning a bigger and better Celebrate Neosho event.
The event also included an explanation on the city’s stance onf the transportation development district. More on this will be in Thursday’s edition of the Daily News.