Having a major hand over the past three years in helping to right the listing ship that was the city of Neosho, city manager Troy Royer has been rewarded with a new three-year contract to continue to lead the city.
The Neosho City Council voted to keep Royer aboard during a closed, executive session following Tuesday’s regular bi-monthly meeting. Councilmen Tom Workman and Charles Collinsworth, along with Mayor Richard Davidson all voted ‘yes’, while councilmen Steve Hart and David Ruth abstained.
Davidson commented that Royer was originally hired because of his financial background.
“We needed someone with strong financial expertise and strong ethical values,” said Davidson. “Everything he’s done he’s gone above and beyond. I can’t think of a better person to have in that position. I welcome the fact that he will be our city manager for the next three years.”
Royer indicated that he was attracted to the job while leading a state auditor team that thoroughly reviewed city finances and practices four years ago.
“What first got me here was, I felt like I could make a difference,” he said. “I was here as an auditor before, I knew what was wrong, I knew what the city’s financial problems were.”
Royer felt he had the expertise in the finance field, and when the offer came in he said that he had things to offer to help the city.
“I knew the problems, and I knew how to resolve them, and of course that takes time, because you can’t fix anything overnight, and we have worked the last three years on resolving all that stuff, and as such you can see where we are now compared to where we were four years ago. We have made some great strides and we are on finally on some stable financial footing right now and are able to do things because of that that are saving us money.”
Royer said the city has saved over $1 million in current and future interest rates by refinancing three series of COPs (certificates of participation) over the past three years, the latest just finalized at this week’s city council meeting. He said they hope to refinance another series of COPs to save even more on interest charges when that issue comes due in 2016, if interest rates remain low.
“We’ve been able to do that because our finances are back on track, we’ve got management practices in place in getting the ‘A’ ratings,” he said.
He explained that to provide the ‘A’ rating, Standard & Poor’s analyzes finances, management practices, practices to keep council informed so that body can make proper decisions, the timeliness of filings, audits and such.
“I just knew things like that I could help with, and come in here with a fresh perspective, a finance-minded manager that could not just have to take the advice of a department director and say, ‘Yeah, it looks OK,’” he said. “I analyze that stuff. I look at it. I am part of that budget process, I don’t just rely on the finance department and other departments to put a budget together for me and skim through it.”
Royer said he goes through budgets with a fine-toothed comb – and many questions and directions – with a mind on planning for the future.
“But mainly it was just coming in to a community that was hurt and down, and I really felt like I could make a difference and I feel like I have over the last three year made a difference at least in the way we conduct things here in the city government – openness, the changes we’ve made here in city hall, the way we respond to things,” he said.
Royer boasted of increased response with code enforcement, police, and public works by filling potholes and such. He said streets were in dire need, and because they have done some financial planning over the past three years, a seven-year street plan has been implemented this year.
“People can see those improvements, that we’ve not only split the town in seven sections – which is basically what we did and say we’re going to do one section each year and then rotate on a seven-year basis – but we’ve also been able to identify roads that are used a lot, such as South St., Spring, Harmony, all those, and stick those in there and do those resurfacings too,” he said. “So not only do our seven-year street plan, but get some other street repairs done that we need to do.”
He reiterated that the city needed to get back on a good financial footing before undertaking such projects.
Royer characterized the past three years as “a long haul,” because many projects planned for several years lay dormant.
“We had other agencies, such as the state, coming down on us and saying, ‘You’ve got to do this, we’re at a critical point that you either do this or you’re going to lose the funding and you’re going to have to pay us back for funding you’ve already been given, two years ago, or three years ago,’” he said.
Royer explained that engineering costs had been paid by the state for projects that had been put on hold because the city was unable to hold up its end of financial obligations. Not only has the city been able to take every old project off the rack and get it completed, he indicated that new projects have implemented, which shows continued improvement.
“So I just feel like the last three years has been a struggle, there’s been staffing changes, we’ve reorganized certain departments,” he said. “I’ve done things that I felt were the best for the city as far as efficiency and effectiveness to get out there and make sure that things are done, and that we are pleasing the citizens because we are taxpayer funded, we are here for them to provide them the services they need as a city, and I feel like over the last three years we have just improved – I can’t say how happy I am to see this improvement.”
Regardless of the issues that may go on legislatively in the city, Royer said the administration has been able to do a wonderful job in putting the city back on good footing so they can begin to serve the citizens as they deserve.
After stabilizing the city over the past three years, Royer said his vision for the next three is to continue to ensure the city remains efficient to save money, and continues to get things done that need to be done. That vision extends focusing on economic development.
“We can’t grow our revenue,” he explained, “unless we have economic development.”
He began with the mention that Love’s is building a truck stop on Missouri Highway 86 at Interstate 49 in what has been a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District for years but had not previously been developed.
“I truly believe we’re going to see some economic development out there with Love’s,” Royer said. “I think Love’s will be the cornerstone for having stuff coming in out on that 86 corridor. Trying to work with the TDD (Transportation Development District) and whoever the developers are that come in and work with that area over there – you know, us as a city being able to whatever we can, as quick as we can to make sure that that development works out there.”
Royer said the city has worked hand-in-hand with economic development partners to assist in landing the proposed Crowder Global Gateway Intermodel Facility because it would be so valuable for the city.
“I think the intermodel thing will just make us stand out from the local communities around us,” he said.
Royer stated that economic development will allow the city to grow its revenue base, which means only better things for the citizens.
“If we can grow our revenue base, it means it’s just that much more we can put back in – to our infrastructure, to things that are going on in the city, because I am all about, ‘That’s why we’re here.’ Not to let things get band-aided for years and years and years, because eventually you can’t band-aid it any more, you’ve got to fix it,” he said.
Royer summarized that his goals for the next three years are to continue to try to grow, and to use available opportunities for economic development to grow the revenue base in order to give back to the citizens through improvements.