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Meeting Highlights: City Council Reviews Proposed 2011-12 Budget

The Richmond Heights City Council met Monday.

The Richmond Heights City Council met Monday night to review the proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, among other issues. This is a look at the discussion.

8:31 P.M.: Mosquito spraying likely will begin once the weather evens out, public works director Bruce Murray said. The council is now going into closed session.

8:30 P.M.: A first reading of a bill that would enter into an agreement with the county to market an energy-savings program in which low-interest rate loans are offered for home energy efficiency improvements has happened.

8:29 P.M.: The council has heard a first reading of the city's anticipated budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year. A second reading is planned June 6.

8:28 P.M.: The council has unanimously approved an ordinance with the St. Louis County Police Department to use its Computer Assisted Report Entry system.

8:27 P.M.: Hamilton is recognizing Parks and Recreation Cooperative director Teresa Proebsting, who recently won the Missouri Park and Recreation Association Fellow Award. She previously worked in O'Fallon, Hazelwood and Clayton. Hamilton played a video recognizing her work.

8:19 P.M.: District 3 Councilwoman Gina Mitten has recommended that The Cheshire receive a one-year period during which it can hang the flags before a renewal is approved. She recommended that instead of a six-month period because of the costs involved. Lore said the city ought to consider banners in recognition of its centennial in 2013.

8:17 P.M.: Hamilton said the banners would likely each include two British flags surrounding text identifying the hotel as The Cheshire. Thomson indicated he would like to see an American flag, and Hamilton responded that the hotel is going for a British theme. "Yeah, but we won the war," Thomson said. He said he's against using two British flags without printing the American flag, as well.

8:13 P.M.: General manager Harry Lunt of The Cheshire hotel has requested permission to hang four banners along Ameren light poles on the south side of Clayton Road, Hamilton said. She said she assumes The Cheshire would want its banners to be the same size as those used by SSM St. Mary's Hospital. The hotel has requested the use of the banners in perpetuity. Hamilton said the hospital does not use its banners in perpetuity, instead receiving a renewal about yearly.

District 3 Councilman Ed Notter said he does not want to grant use of the light poles in perpetuity for the banners and said he would want to specify a size for the banners.

8:09 P.M.: "The city and the residents thank all of you for everything you do," Beck said about Richmond Heights police.

8:07 P.M.: Beck acknowledged the works of emergency medical officials. He said several such officials provided assistance to his mother last month when she cracked several ribs, helping her get down a flight of stairs with "very little discomfort" to her. "They did a great job," he said.

8:03 P.M.: Beck is reading proclamations in recognition of National Public Works Week, National Emergency Medical Services Week and National Police Week.

8:01 P.M.: Lore has complimented Beck to begin the meeting. "I think it's impressive that you have not missed a meeting," he said. Beck said he didn't know whether that was accurate, but Thomson agreed that it was.

8 P.M.: The public hearing about the budget has ended and the regular meeting has begun.

7:59 P.M.: Hamilton said it's her understanding that the Municipal League has a task force looking at the shared sales tax issue.

7:58 P.M.: Hamilton said Maryland Heights has earmarked its gambling revenues only for capital projects, such as work near the Page extension. Beck said he agrees that if the city has to share the sales tax funds, the gambling funds should also be shared.

7:56 P.M.: Lore suggested that the city petition the St. Louis County Municipal League about revenues. He said if Richmond Heights has to share its sales tax revenues, cities such as Maryland Heights that collect gambling revenues should have to share those, as well.

7:54 P.M.: District 1 Councilman Matt Casey said he has faith in city staff but expressed concerns about future revenues.  "I'm not 100 percent convinced that the economy is completely turning around," Casey said.

7:53 P.M.: District 2 Councilman Jim Thomson recommended that the city give the 3 percent merit raise now because the city has a positive fund balance. Mayor Jim Beck said he agrees. "I do think that the projections are based actually conservatively," Beck said.

7:50 P.M.: Hamilton is taking questions from council members. District 1 Councilman Paul Lore is questioning whether the council would consider re-evaluating revenues after six months of the fiscal year and then implementing the 3 percent merit raise if revenues are in line with projections. He said he's concerned by the possibility of revenue declines for the two fiscal years following 2011-12. Hamilton said the city often doesn't get thorough revenue numbers until March.

7:48 P.M.: The city is proposing a 3 percent merit increase to take effect July 1 and costing $192,000 total, Hamilton said. Medical insurance premiums are expected to increase 7.5 percent for a cost of approximately $58,000 costs. A total of approximately $2.78 million will be spent on public infrastructure improvements.

7:45 P.M.: Infrastructure expenditures are expected to increase by 11 percent over this fiscal year because of the completion of the Laclede Station Road bridge project and the reconstruction of Wise Avenue from Big Bend Boulevard to Yale Avenue.

7:42 P.M.: Expenditures are now being discussed. "We have really tried to hold expenditures," Hamilton said. The city has held off on filling some positions and managed to balance its budget.

7:40 P.M.: Hamilton is discussing assessed valuation.

7:38 P.M.: The city is projecting increased revenues in the 2011-12 year with the addition of Nordstrom at the Saint Louis Galleria and other new restaurants and retail stores.

7:35 P.M.: Sales tax revenues are up 8 percent this fiscal year over the last fiscal year, Hamilton said. Those revenues still aren't flush with 2006 levels before Highway 40 closed for renovations. "We are at least on an upward climb," she said. About 70 percent of the city's costs go toward employee salaries and benefits, which is typical of cities, she said. Richmond Heights has not experienced major layoffs as have other municipalities.

7:33 P.M.: City Manager Amy Hamilton is leading a public hearing about the proposed budget for fiscal year 2011-12. The fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2012.

7:29 P.M.: Council members are being seated for the meeting.

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