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City officials approved a $9,126,5995 budget for 2019 during the regular November meeting after hearing from city department heads during a committee of the whole meeting.

During the committee meeting, City Council members questioned department heads about items on the budget. City Clerk Sandy Button explained the budgets.

"When we were working on the budgets... there wasn't anything significantly out of place for amounts, probably just cost of living. There were no large expenditures or large building amounts or infrastructure," Button said.

"With the income, there are good things. County sales tax has gone up, which is always a good thing -- by probably 8 percent. Court fines have gone up a little bit, so that also is good. We're expecting $50,000 in a police grant, so that is in there. We're expecting property tax to go up by $20,000 and sales tax will go up," Button said.

"Property tax will go up once new houses are assessed," Starla Billington, city bookkeeper, explained.

In the City General budget, the cost allocated for disposal service doubled, from $30,000 to $60,000. Button said it was because of the increased use of the spring and fall cleanups provided by the city.

"I don't think it's a bad thing, there are just more people using it," she said.

Council member Bob Cottingham questioned the increase by $10,000 of the Weston Street payment saying: "I was under the impression it was to remain the same year by year."

"It's based on franchise fees, it can be flexible," Button said. "It just means it gets paid off sooner. We probably should change the name because when we refinanced, we added the cost of City Hall to that. It also includes this building. We only have this note now."

Mayor Jackie Crabtree explained: "The Weston Street payments and this building -- it's all dedicated out of the franchise fees. We've been above and beyond payment for the last couple of years. We're locked into payment, getting more than having to pay off, we could adjust. That funding is dedicated to pay that off."

The Police Department budget is $1,536,500, up from $1,350,350 last year. Cottingham asked about the $50,000 grant.

"Nothing is ever guaranteed," Police Capt. Chris Olson said. "If we don't get it, we don't spend it."

The cost of prisoner housing increased from $8,000 to $10,000. Olson explained that fee is charged by the county and he said that as much as possible, officers try to cite out persons arrested in order to avoid the charge.

He also said the police department still has an "older fleet" of vehicles, explaining the cost of maintenance for vehicles that increased from $20,000 to $23,000.

"They're already over budget $3,000 this year," Button said.

"The cars, they're just getting older," Olson said. He also said he has no plans to add an additional officer.

In the court fund, legal fees increased from $10,500 to $40,000. Button explained that was for the new prosecutor "who has done an amazing job."

Under salaries, the line item increased from $60,000 to $65,000. The mayor said that line item is for the court clerk position.

"The line items in this budget are not set in stone," Button said, adding that "$65,000 is not my salary... this is the only salary I get."

City attorney Shane Perry said his research reveals that Button is only paid one salary and that the position name may be a "misnomer" and that Button holds several responsibilities. He said ordinances to be presented later in the council meeting would clarify some of the confusion.

City librarian Alex Wright asked for an additional $24,000 to fund an additional full-time position. That money was not reflected in the budget and, after lengthy discussion, it was agreed to evaluate that request later.

"Let us just put these numbers out there and figure the benefits," Button told Wright. "This will include group insurance... let's bring back more definite numbers."

Wright also told city officials that usage of the library had increased and utilities cost increased. She said the library did upgrade internet service from CenturyLink to Cox which has made the internet availability "tremendously better." She said security cameras were also added.

One item in the Park budget which increased dramatically was the cost of water, from $900 for 2018 to $4,500 for 2019. The mayor explained that although the water for the splash pad is recycled, there is an initial cost.

During the Council meeting Tuesday night, Resolution No. 417 adopting the budget was presented to Council members. Cottingham said there were only three council members present and he believed adopting the budget should be delayed.

"There are only three Council me present I feel very strongly we should have full representation and our new councilmen should have the opportunity to have input. I would like to move that we have the second reading in December and not pas it tonight," Cottingham said.

The mayor said resolutions, unlike ordinances, do not require three readings.

"We've had this since September, if councilman (Lance) Sanders had an objection, he would have given it," Steve Guthrie, council member, said.

"The populace needs to be aware of this budget," Cottingham said, adding that according to the Arkansas Municipal League, the budget does not have to be approved until Feb. 1.

Cottingham moved to table the resolution. The motion died for lack of a second.

Guthrie moved to pass the resolution, Ray Easley seconded the motion. Easley and Guthrie voted to pass the resolution. Cottingham abstained. The resolution passed.

General News on 11/28/2018

Print Headline: City officials approve $9 million budget

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