Increases in the fire department and municipal courts budgets, plus the creation of a new department to deal with computers and technology, has left city leaders concerned as they enter the stretch run of the six-month-long Carthage city budget process.

Increases in the fire department and municipal courts budgets, plus the creation of a new department to deal with computers and technology, has left city leaders concerned as they enter the stretch run of the six-month-long Carthage city budget process.
The Carthage City Council's Budget Ways and Means Committee voted 4-0 to send to the full council a 2018-19 budget that calls for spending about $1.2 million more than the city will receive in revenue and dipping into the city's fund balance to pay the difference.
That's a jump from the current fiscal year budget which authorized spending a little more than $800,000 than the city received in revenue.
Short said the budget may allow spending $1.2 million from the city's reserves, but that doesn't mean that's how the budget will play out on June 30, 2019.
He said in most years, spending by the departments is less than expected and in many years' revenue, especially from sales taxes has come in higher than expected.
“Even though we're approving a budget, it's not really in stone, changes can be made and we do make changes as we go along for different reasons,” Short said. “If revenues don't trend out the way we're looking at it and we do have to cut back on spending, we can come back and look at things.”
The budget now goes back to City Administrator Tom Short and the rest of the city staff for a final write-up before going to the full City Council for first reading at the Council meeting on June 11 and a final vote at the Council meeting on June 25.
The budget has to be in place before July 1, the start of the city's fiscal year.
Short said the proposed budget includes increases in spending in several departments that are more than just one-time spikes.
• The Carthage Fire Department's budget increases from $1,693,000 this year to $1,957,000 next year, a jump of $263,000, or 15 percent.
Short said the additional costs of operating a second fire station in the south part of Carthage, including the addition of at least three firefighters, will permanently raise the department's spending to a new level.
• The creation of an information technology department, including hiring a second full-time computer technician will mean spending $80,000 to renovate offices in the second floor of City Hall to house the department and a $210,000 budget line item that didn't exist in previous budgets.
Short said some of that $210,000 comes from taking some computer and technology spending out of other departments' budgets and consolidating them into the IT budget, but part of that is additional spending.
• The budget for the municipal court and city attorney's office jumps from a combined $173,000 to a combined $210,000, a jump of 24 percent.
In the wake of the City Council's decision not to turn the Municipal Court over to the Jasper County Circuit Court, the city faces finding a new judge after October when 34-year-veteran Carthage Judge Brad Cameron reaches the state's mandatory retirement age, and hiring a new clerk to work with the city attorney, as required by the state's Office of State Courts Administration.
“This is a ramping up of spending, and it won't go away,” Short said. “Of particular concern is the IT budget. We know the costs of information technology only goes up and it generally goes up more than the rate of inflation. And you have to keep up, technology changes so quickly and it never gets cheaper.”
Among the big individual items in the budget:
• $1.1 million to pay half the cost of a new roundabout at Fairlawn Drive and Garrison Avenue.
The city signed a contract with the Missouri Department of Transportation to build a roundabout similar to the one at Airport Drive, Fairlawn and Grand Avenue with the state picking up half the tab.
Construction is expected to take place in this fiscal year and it's hoped that easier access to Garrison Avenue north to the Myers Park area will spur economic development there and closer to the roundabout.
• $330,000 for a new report management system for the Police Department.
The police department has been using the same computerized management system for more than a decade and the manufacturer no longer supports the system.