The following is an excerpt from the FY 2024-25 proposed city budget “Operational and Budget Challenges” section brought forth for streamlined public accessibility:

While the influx of federal funds via the American Rescue Plan Act was welcome, these one-time funds created significant fluctuations that made it harder to see the base budget for FY 2023 and ensure that it was sustainable. As we advised in the FY2024 Budget Message the General Fund is not sustainable without an alternative revenue stream. This FY2025 balanced budget incorporates the following proposals:

• A one-time, reduction in General Fund contingency of $400,000 relative to the FY2024 budget brings the City below the required contingency amount specified in policy, which will be replenished through a strategy involving additional revenue streams discussed below and eventually provide funds for reinvestment in services; and

• The implementation of a $27 per month Public Safety Fee to be added to each utility bill beginning in January 2025. This will generate approximately $510,000 during FY2025. The fee amount is proposed to be reduced for the 2025-26 fiscal year to $10 per month, and then indexed each year in December based on inflation as calculated in CPU-West Region; and

• The City will place an Arts and Culture Operating Levy on the ballot(s) in 2024-25 to support the Independence Public Library, the Independence Heritage Museum, and City parks. This will generate $1.065 million per year and translates to a rate of $1.82/$1,000 assessed value or about $548 per year on a home valued at $300,000. If this levy fails, the City will begin to close those departments that would have been funded by the levy.

The implementation of the $27 per month fee for utility customers provides a necessary infusion to the General Fund for public safety in the first year to establish a sustainable base. The lesser per month fee in subsequent years helps to protect that base against inflationary erosion of services and allow for reinvestment in public safety through measured increases in staffing in the Police Department. This strategy is projected to support the hiring of one additional police officer in the 2025-26 fiscal year, two additional police officers in the 2026-27 fiscal year, and one additional officer in each of the 2027-28 and 2028-29 fiscal years.

It should be noted that a failure to approve any one of the above proposals will result in the need to close nonessential departments (Library, Museum, Parks) and/or reduce staffing further in essential departments (Police Department). If implemented this strategy provides stability to the General Fund over the life of the levy. The fund balance would grow modestly each year and allow the City to rebuild a healthy fund balance and perhaps begin to reinvest in service levels in the later years. It should further be noted that to sustain this stability the operating levy would need to be renewed every five years.

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