JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Facing a tight budget cycle, the Jefferson City Council has balanced the city budget mainly by reducing its fleet management plan significantly.

By reducing the amount of money spent on vehicles, the council found more funding to hire a new detective and fill a police officer’s position. With salary and benefits included, filling the two positions will cost $57,013 each, according to

The redirection of money will also allow the city to continue offering composting services ($88,167), provide a small stipend for public art ($10,000), and improve older parts of the city ($30,000). In addition, the council’s decision means employees will be able to attend most conferences and training sessions. Those budget lines won’t be cut as severely. The change also allows the city to contribute $150,000 from the general fund to underwrite firefighter’s pensions at 100 percent.

About four years ago, officials agreed to dip into city reserves to purchase 40 new vehicles at a cost of $920,000. The plan was that the city would purchase the vehicles at lower costs using pre-negotiated state contracts. At the time, the most popular vehicles — SUVs and pick-up trucks — were selected in hope they would retain their sales value.

Employees were told to take care of the vehicles and were not allowed to smoke inside. The plan also included driving the vehicles ‘lightly’ for a year or two and then selling them at nearly what the city paid. However, the plan didn’t work, partly because no one envisioned how higher gas prices would upset the auto industry.

At an auction in May 2006, the city sold four Explorers and 12 Chevrolet Silverados. The average purchase price of the trucks was $23,130, but they sold for $19,105. In that sale, one Explorer sold for $9,438 less than the purchase price.

A year ago, officials approved a fleet management program that replaces the vehicles based on need.