Paying employees will cost the City of Commerce a little more next year based on preliminary figures.

The city’s tentative 2020-21 budget, reviewed by the Commerce City Council on May 18, calls for a $409,911 increase in salaries and benefits.

Salaries and benefits account for the biggest increase in the proposed budget, and over $200,000 of that jump will come from pension increases.

“We’re already seeing some of these market effects hit our pension funds from this COVID (crisis),” city manager James Wascher said. “Because last year our required contribution was significantly less.”

Wascher said the city will pay about $18,000 a month more into pensions in 2020-21.

The salaries and benefit increase also reflects raises for most all employees after implementation of a salary study completed in January. The city also created three new positions as a result of the study. 

Commerce's tentative budget calls for just over $7.35 million in general fund expenses, a 4.1 percent increase over last year’s general fund budget. Wascher said the spending plan would require Commerce to use $78,815 in reserves to balance the budget.

“Not bad considering we had considered that we had a balanced budget with a $200,000 hit,” Wascher said. “So, we were able to mitigate the majority of that without really impacting some operations.”

Wascher did note that the proposed budget was prepared and balanced based on revenues “from a pre-COVID economy.”

“We’re still in the early stages of kind of finding out what’s going to happen to us with some of these revenue sources over time,” Wascher said.

The city council will hold a public hearing June 1 over the proposed budget.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business, the council:

•approved updates to its ordinances for city court. Those updates include allowing the judge to set court dates and allowing the city to appoint the public defender and the prosecutor.

•approved a resolution to renew the city police department’s contract with the state's certification program.

•approved a third-party inspection plan and review ordinance. The ordinance is in response to changes in state law that allow developers to contract with a third party for review and inspections instead of using city building-inspection employees. The ordinance defines requirements — such as certifications and insurance — that a developer and their third party inspection group must meet.

•upheld the planning commission’s recommendation to deny a variance request for a dog kennel in Highland Estates.

•approved updated pricing and lease agreements for city rentals.

•approved a beer and wine alcohol license for Kim’s BBQ on North Elm Street. Mayor Clark Hill recused himself from discussion of the matter because his wife is part owner of the development in which the establishment is located. 

•approved an annual donation of $2,385 donation to the Jackson County Certified Literate Community Program.

•discussed keeping the city pool closed for public swimming until later in the summer due to safety concerns with COVID-19. The recreation department would be able to use the facility, however, for its programs before the venue reopens to the public.

•heard from Wascher that Waste Pro requests a temporary 80-cent per customer per month raise in fees due to the amount of trash generated during shelter-in-place orders. Some on the council pushed back against increase, however. The city will request data from Waste Pro to show the increase in trash tonnage it's collecting. 

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