Spring­dale wants bud­get feed­back

Com­mu­nity mem­bers can in­ter­act with city depart­ment heads

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - HICHAM RAACHE

SPRING­DALE — Com­mu­nity mem­bers will have the op­por­tu­nity this week to speak with lo­cal lead­ers and help shape the city’s 2018 bud­get.

Bud­get in­put ses­sions will be held Thurs­day and Fri­day at the City Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing.

“Ev­ery year we ad­just our bud­get to meet the cur­rent needs of the city,” said Melissa Reeves, pub­lic re­la­tions di­rec­tor for the city. “Af­ter we have the bud­get in­put ses­sion and we com­pile that

in­for­ma­tion, we have a bet­ter idea of what the bud­get will look like.”

Com­mu­nity mem­bers can in­ter­act with city depart­ment heads dur­ing the in­put ses­sions and dis­cuss how city money should be spent in 2018.

The city has held bud­get in­put ses­sions since 2000 when it man­dated pub­lic meet­ings be held in July re­gard­ing city needs.

Bud­get in­put meet­ings have had con­sis­tently low turnouts. Around eight to 10 peo­ple was the high­est num­ber of res­i­dents who showed up for past ses­sions, Wy­man Mor­gan, di­rec­tor of fi­nance and ad­min­is­tra­tion, said ahead of last year’s meet­ings.

The city made a con­certed ef­fort last year to in­crease at­ten­dance. Around 13 peo­ple at­tended last year’s Wed­nes­day even­ing meet­ing.

Res­i­dents fre­quently men­tion the city’s an­i­mal shel­ter when giv­ing feed­back dur­ing bud­get in­put ses­sions, Reeves said.

“This is an is­sue we have been work­ing on for a while, but it was cru­cial to know that the pub­lic is sup­port­ive of that project,” she said.

Brian Jaure, co-owner of Shelby Lynn’s Cake Shoppe at 118 W. Emma Ave., said

a larger an­i­mal shel­ter is a wor­thy project.

“We’ve adopted pets our­selves, and hav­ing talked to the shel­ter. We know they’re crunched for space,” Jaure said.

The shel­ter had 57 dogs and 95 cats as of Fri­day, said Court­ney Kre­mer, shel­ter di­rec­tor.

“We’re re­ally full. We got prob­a­bly 48 cages for big dogs and prob­a­bly 50 cages for cats,” Kre­mer said. “We’ve got some dogs that came in to­gether that are dou­bled up, which is why we have room for that many, and cats too.”

City lead­ers hope to in­clude a new an­i­mal shel­ter in a bond is­sue that will be put for­ward to vot­ers in 2018. Mor­gan es­ti­mates res­i­dents will be asked to vote on the bond in Fe­bru­ary or March. City lead­ers hope the an­i­mal shel­ter will be among many projects in the bond is­sue, which also likely will in­clude a Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Com­plex, ren­o­va­tions to the ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing, two to three new fire sta­tions, a north­west park and road im­prove­ments.

The bond would be a con­tin­u­a­tion of a sales tax the city levied in 2004, Mor­gan said.

Mor­gan said Thurs­day city lead­ers will work to keep the com­ing year’s ex­penses close to this year’s num­bers.

To­tal bud­get ex­pen­di­tures for this year are $55.8 mil­lion; they were $55.2 mil­lion in 2016.

City lead­ers have not started work­ing on the 2018 bud­get, Mor­gan said.

“That’s why we have in­put ses­sions from the cit­i­zens to get com­ments be­fore we start work on the bud­get,” he said.

The city’s goal in 2018 is to give $1 mil­lion in step in­crease raises to city em­ploy­ees, Mor­gan said. The city has more than 500 em­ploy­ees and is not look­ing to create any po­si­tions in 2018, he said. How­ever, he said the city will likely look to create po­si­tions in 2019 to staff three new fire sta­tions and a new park in the city’s north­west sec­tion.

Fire Chief Mike Ir­win does not ex­pect his depart­ment’s 2018 bud­get will be much higher than the bud­get sub­mit­ted for 2017. The Fire Depart­ment sub­mit­ted a $12.6 mil­lion bud­get for 2017.

A res­cue truck val­ued be­tween $350,000 to $375,000 will likely be the only ma­jor new ex­pense his depart­ment will need, Ir­win said.

“We’ve out­grown the one we have,” he said. “It’s a 1994, so it’s prob­a­bly ready to be re­placed any­way.”

Ir­win brings his depart­ment’s bud­get re­quests to Mor­gan and Mayor Doug Sprouse at the be­gin­ning of the year.

“We pri­or­i­tize our list and work our way down,” he said. “They’re all needs, but we have needs at the top that are more ur­gent than what’s at the bot­tom.”

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