Since 2018, the City of Hazelwood and Robertson Fire Protection District have been in a legal dispute regarding fire services and fees for the Northwest Territory. For the past two years, both parties have been in court-ordered mediation to find a resolution. At this time, the parties have reached an interim partial settlement agreement regarding the 2018 fees paid by the City to the District, which was one of the issues in the lawsuit.
The settlement includes the City paying $2.446 million for full settlement of all outstanding claims following the City’s termination of the Fire Services contract in 2017. Additionally, the City agreed to continue monthly payments to the District for the remainder of 2021 for a total of $4.5 million for 2021, resolving all fees due through 2021. Both parties agreed to negotiate the District’s tax rate and fee for the upcoming year with a cap of $4.5 million per year.
By settling the above issues, the City is able to save money, both on long-term legal fees and because the settlement amount agreed to by the parties is less than what the District was claiming. Further, the settlement provides clarity for the City and it allows the City and the District to focus on finding a solution to the overarching fire services issue.
The City continues to face long-term budget crises. Even with the one-time infusion of CARES Act funds, the expected $5 million in ARPA funds, and the drastic cuts in services, programs, and personnel, the City is still projecting a deficit of $4.5 million for the current fiscal year. Future budget projections show additional deficit spending. The City anticipates that reserves will fall to two months by the end of the FY 2022 and three and a half weeks by the end FY 2023 with which to pay bills and payroll. The City could be forced into bankruptcy in the next 1-2 years without a change in circumstances.
The City continues to work on finding a long-term solution to the budget crisis and looks forward to working with residents and employees to determine the best way forward in our community.
If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please contact City Manager Matt Zimmerman as 314-513-5010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.