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City will trim staff by 20 percent

INDEPENDENCE -- The city of Independence will have 7.5 fewer employees -- roughly 20 percent of its work force -- next year than it did in 2010.

INDEPENDENCE -- The city of Independence will have 7.5 fewer employees -- roughly 20 percent of its work force -- next year than it did in 2010.

Financial issues are also forcing the city to heavily draw down its reserves and consider utility rate increases for the next fiscal cycle.

Those are some of the somber features of the city's proposed $13.98 million budget for 2011-12, which is down about 11 percent from the year before.

"It's extremely conservative, extremely thin," said City Manager David Clyne. "As operations personnel goes, it's at a low point when related to our population."

With cuts made in the last several months and those expected by July 1, the city will have lost 7.5 full-time positions. That includes its school resource officer, half a slot in public works and 1.5 administrative jobs. Savings total about $650,000.

Driving forces behind the shortfalls include the toll the recession has taken on the urban renewal district, past revenue projections based on a finished Independence Station, and annual debt payments for construction of the new civic center, Clyne said. The next payment will run $600,000.

"Yes, it affects us at an unfortunate time," Clyne said of the civic center. "But I believe it will help us climb out of this hole more quickly than if we didn't have it ... developers are coming in and seeing that we're willing to invest in our community."

The ending fund balance for Independence is down about $1 million, Clyne said. The city is also having to transfer money from some of its self-sustaining funds to cover the $1.2 million deficit in the urban renewal district.

Only union workers -- such as police officers -- will receive salary raises, per contract agreements. All other city employees' pay will remain flat.

There will be a five-year hiatus for any major capital projects, unless more money comes in.

City Council will consider rate increases for water and sewer customers this month, amounting to an additional $5.53 and $4.28 a month, respectively, on utility bills.

The city's transportation fund has suffered greatly because of the recession and the building slowdown. The city may discuss new sources of revenue, including street fees, next year.

Restructuring some departments, such as the creation of an economic development department, could help drum up new business for Independence, Clyne said.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "But we must be careful and conservative with how we manager our money."

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