Possible personnel cuts within the Maryville Department of Parks & Recreation, along with increases in program participation fees, apparently won't happen now that activists have dropped efforts to get a proposed state minimum wage increase on the November general election ballot.
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan last month told the Give Missourians a Raise group that it had failed to collect enough signatures to place the proposed $1 increase before voters. The organization countered that a large number of signatures were improperly invalidated and filed a lawsuit.
But this week, according to the Associated Press, Give Missourians a Raise concluded that legal hurdles erected by those opposed to the measure could not be surmounted before a Sept. 21 deadline.
According to the AP report, the Rev. Martin Rafanan, one of the campaign's leaders, called efforts to keep the question off the ballot "another example of big monied corporate interests displacing the people's interests in the democratic process."
But whatever the political divisions statewide, the measure's withdrawal is good news for the quasi-independent Maryville Park Board, which has been coping with reduced revenues since 2009, when the state Legislature reduced its maximum allowable property tax levy from 40 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to 30 cents.
Parks & Recreation Director Rod Auxier told the City Council last month that the reduced levy, combined with falling reserves, were forcing the board to trim its budget from $1.3 million to $1.24 million for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
That reduction, Auxier said, did not take into account the proposed minimum wage increase, which would have cost the department an estimated $34,000 a year.
Had the wage measure won voter approval, Auxier said the only options would have been to raise fees, such as those paid by residents who use athletic facilities at the Maryville Community Center, and reduce staff hours.
In addition to cutting back on the amount of paid part-time work, which is mostly performed by college and high school students and a few retirees, Auxier floated the possibility to the council of eliminating at least one position from the department's 10-person full-time roster.
Now that the effort to raise the state minimum wage to $8.25 has apparently evaporated, none of that will happen, Auxier said Tuesday.
Though restricted revenues did force the Parks & Recreation Board to cancel plans for a number of capital improvements, no fee increases and staff cuts are included in the proposed 2012-'13 spending plan presented to the council.
"We would have had to make some tough decisions (if the minimum wage had increased)," Auxier said.
Missouri's current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and applies to most employees with exceptions for tipped workers, some student workers and several other employment classifications.
The wage can be increased or decreased annually based on a cost-of-living factor, however Auxier said he did not expect such an adjustment, if the state Department of Labor elects to make one, to be as "critical" as the $1 increase proposed in the ballot initiative.