Myers: Greenwood’s $64.4M budget shows safety is ‘priority’

The Greenwood City Council could approve a nearly $64.4 million proposed budget later this month.

The proposed budget was introduced during the course of two city council meetings in September. The bulk of the budget — about $62 million — is the city’s operating budget.

To prepare the budget, Mayor Mark Myers, city controller Greg Wright and the city’s financial staff worked with department heads to determine what budget items needed adjusted for inflation and what raises could be given to city employees and elected officials.

The city is expecting nearly $63 million in revenue in 2023. There will also not be a tax increase in this year’s budget, continuing a years-long trend.

“The budget once again is a balanced budget,” Myers said. “It’s not a deficit budget and there will be some extra rainy day fund money, and I’m very proud we can present a balanced budget with the tax dollars we have coming in and continue to maintain what we do.”

The largest chunk of the 2023 budget would be spent on public safety, which Myers says is a top priority. More than $21.1 million, or 32.9%, of the city’s proposed budget will be spent on public safety.

Six new full-time firefighting positions would be added to the fire department, which would allow the city to fully staff fire apparatus with four firefighters per truck. Fully staffing the department in this manner has never happened before, Myers said.

“We have been building up to it,” he said.

The city would continue to use part-time firefighters to help maintain the staffing level, Myers said.

The police department would add three new full-time officers as part of the 2023 proposed budget, bringing the total number of patrol officers to 63, city documents show. City officials wanted to add more, but right now the department doesn’t have the manpower to train more officers. That’s because the department is losing several officers to retirement at the end of this year, Myers said.

“After talking to Chief Ison, three was the number we could add,” he said.

Officials also plan to give a 7% pay increase to merit police officers and merit firefighters to bring their pay up to comparable rates from other surrounding agencies, Myers said. The proposed budget says the annual pay would be $70,006.56 for patrol officers starting next year.

The goal of this move is to help prevent the department from losing more officers and to entice officers to come to work for Greenwood, Myers said.

The pay increases, and fire staff increases, are made possible by an extra $2 million in taxes the city is expected to get from Johnson County’s Economic Development Income Tax, documents show. The tax, which the Johnson County Council levied to help pay for road infrastructure, went into effect on Oct. 1. Though the county levied the tax, cities and towns also gain new revenue from it.

Across the board, all full-time employees and elected officials would receive a 5% cost of living increase, the budget shows.

Among the positions that would receive the raise are mayor, city clerk, parks director and economic development director. The economic development director position, which is budgeted for $101,930 in 2023, is currently vacant. The position has not been filled in a few years.

It’s unclear when the position may be filled, Myers said.

“It’s still up in the air, we haven’t decided to hire someone for that position yet,” he said.

As long as the position remains vacant, the salary will continue to roll into the city’s general fund budget for the next year, Myers said.

Other highlights of the 2023 proposed budget include a new position in several departments, along with capital improvements and investments. Among the capital improvements, the fire department would have a ladder truck replaced for $820,000, $500,000 would be set aside for a sidewalk replacement program and $14,000 will be used for upgrades to the program room at the Greenwood Fieldhouse, documents show.

Several other departments would also have vehicles replaced as some of the current vehicles in the city’s fleet begin to age out, Myers said.

Greenwood’s proposed budget also accounts for inflation. For the 2022 budget, officials estimated about $4 a gallon for gas. For the 2023 proposed budget, officials have bumped up the estimate to as much as $6 a gallon for gas, Myers said.

“Hopefully, it will come down and we can make some adjustments next year,” Myers said. “We are planning for worse-case scenarios so we can be prepared.”

Healthcare costs have also increased by 25% for employees, and the increase will be paid out of the budget. This will not affect employees, he said.

A public hearing for the budget proposal will take place before the city council at 7 p.m. Monday at the Greenwood City Center. Final approval of the budget is expected later this month.