Dardenne Prairie city staff and its Board of Aldermen continue to work on a proposed budget for 2020.
Bill No. 19-46 covering that budget was given a first reading at the Nov. 6 board meeting. Following that reading, the board spent a full hour discussing numerous specific line items and surfacing additional items for possible inclusion in the next iteration of the budget.
Nine city residents were present in the audience, with a few of them offering comments in support of the direction being taken by the board. Typically, there are only two or three residents in the audience at board meetings.
On Nov. 4 and 5, social media site “NextDoor” had displayed a brief flurry of anxiety-causing posts saying the BOA was to vote that week on using Parks & Recreation special sales tax funds [a half-cent sales tax generating about $600,000 per year] to help fund street maintenance. It was not clear where this rumor originated. Several residents subsequently posted in opposition, saying the special sales tax and its revenue were approved by voters in order to get new Parks & Recreation sites, not fix streets. Residents also posted warnings about this vote and encouraged people to attend the board meeting to speak in opposition.
In response, Mayor David Zucker posted a clarification that the 2020 budget was to be discussed only at a special workshop at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5. One of the aldermen also posted a clarification that at the budget bill was to be given a first reading only that week, but there would not be a vote.
As shown in the city website schedule, a Special BOA Workshop to discuss the 2020 budget was conducted at city hall at 8 p.m. on Nov. 5. In that workshop, 14 residents attended, and it quickly became obvious to the aldermen that some residents had misunderstood the planned use of revenue from the half-cent parks and recreation tax. The mayor and aldermen then clarified that the half-cent tax revenue is restricted, and only can be used for parks and recreation; it cannot be used for other things such as street maintenance. However, other general revenue is not restricted; it can be and is used for parks and recreation expenses. Once that was understood, many residents were more favorable to the proposed 2020 budget options and plans being considered.
Regarding Bill No. 19-46, Zucker said he anticipates that the draft budget will be amended in the normal process between now and the city’s Nov. 20 board meeting. After that meeting, Zucker said he plans to write a letter summarizing the content of the budget and post it on the city’s website by Nov. 22. Then, there will be a public comment period from Nov. 22 through the Dec. 4 board meeting.
The vote to approve the 2020 budget via Bill No. 19-46 could be at the Dec. 4 board meeting or as late as the Dec. 18 board meeting.
Zucker cautioned that all of this is subject to whatever direction and timeline the board decides to use for the budget.