Small Municipalities like Claycomo Are Just Trying to Survive

By:

  • Local Leader Voices
October 7, 2020

The Village of Claycomo is a landlocked community surrounded by Kansas City and divided by U.S. Highway 69 and Interstates 35 and 435. Our population is approximately 1,400 residents – mainly older population with some multi-generational families.

When this year began, the outlook was already not as bright as the previous year. Income appeared to be down. Currently, the Village revenue is down over $291,000. When you only have a budget of approximately $2.4 million, this is a scary outlook. We recently had to set our tax levy for real estate and property taxes which is only at .33 per assessed $100 dollars. The maximum we can have is .50 per assessed $100 but have not been able to get voters to pass a measure to raise the levy. These funds do not even pay our trash bill.

So far, we have been able to hang on but considerations for reducing our police and fire department and public works department hang in the balance. We only have 51 employees, and each one is a valuable asset to Claycomo.

Community Investments Sidelined, Hurting Small Businesses

We currently have a freeze on all non-essential spending. We had plans with our Economic Development Committee that centered around businesses and the residents to get people together. Well, lack of funds and social distancing has canceled those plans.

Our parks were going to have the grills replaced and unused tennis courts changed out to pickle ball and basketball courts. We are also now looking into a grant for a pollination and butterfly garden. However, on our end, these are non-essential items. We are just trying to be able to hang onto our two full time employees to keep the Village in good working order.

We also had plans for new ceilings and flooring plus bathroom updates for our Community building but that has been put on hold. Businesses will lose out because we will not be contracting work for our parks or the community building. We use a lot of small “Mom and Pop” businesses when we can and always try to use a Claycomo business whenever possible.

Supporting Our People in Hard Times

We have had some employees in quarantine, thus causing others to work overtime which increases our payroll. In our small administrative office of three people when one had to stay home, another had to cancel her vacation in order to fill the gap as the court personnel cannot do certain duties that involve the police.

We have held food giveaways that were almost overwhelming. Being a small community with a major employer, it hurts when that employer closes its doors. When Ford Motor Company closed for two months, it really hurt. We won’t know the full devastation to our budget until it’s time for franchise taxes to be paid out.

We lost several businesses. The ones that stayed open were given an option to advertise on 69 Highway without paying for sign permits. It helped let the public know who was open.

Budget Reality Check

In the coming weeks, the Village will review the budget and make adjustments. We know Ford Motor Company will have some more down time, which will hurt our budget again. Our rentals of our community building are down.

We received $138,000 in CARES Act funds and have used it for overtime and to purchase personal protection gear. We also purchased fogger machines, as well as hand sanitizer, wipes, and cleansers. We have had to purchase signs and kept parks closed for an extended amount of time.

Here is a reality check for you from some of our departments showing the differences between August 2019 and now in August 2020:

  • 1% Sales Tax equipment replacement fund is down $15,592
  • Ambulance fees are down $14,538
  • Court income is down $4,097

These are examples of the budget shortfalls we are experiencing. But when it’s all added up, Claycomo’s income in August 2019 was $141,200.92 compared to 2020 which is only $89,096.78. This is a 37% difference.

The overall budget has a few ups, but they are small amounts and only a few. The other accounts show losses, but they are smaller. This period is just one month of August, but the loss of income was $52,104.14. Claycomo’s total loss through August 2020 is $291,993.76. We will be looking at long-range plans that will include cutting hours, but hopefully not letting anyone go permanently.

We want to echo the National League of Cities’ ask, to Congress to support our community and others like Claycomo with relief aid that can help us avoid more cuts.

Norma Sulzberger is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Claycomo, Missouri.