The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - OPINION -

City bud­get is pub­lic busi­ness

Ci­ti­zens of Pea Ridge, Now that the elec­tion is over with all the ug­li­ness, name-call­ing and other so –called “cam­paign pol­i­tics,” we need to be con­cerned with the busi­ness end and fu­ture en­deav­ors of our elected city gov­ern­ment. Specif­i­cally, the 2019 city bud­get.

There is sched­uled to be a “Com­mit­tee of the Whole” meet­ing at City Hall at 4 p.m. Tues­day, Nov. 20, to dis­cuss the pro­posed 2019 city bud­get with all de­part­ment heads, coun­cil mem­bers and mayor.

At this point the pro­posed city bud­get is at $9,126,595 with $4,038,290 of it des­ig­nated for “city gen­eral.” These are our tax dol­lars that are be­ing spo­ken for and how the ad­min­is­tra­tion in­tends to spend and/or com­mit them.

This is by far the largest bud­get pro­posal I have seen in my 13 years as coun­cil­man.

Af­ter­wards, the City Coun­cil meet­ing is sched­uled the same day at 7 p.m. with all ap­par­ent in­ten­tions to ap­prove this bud­get in its en­tirety without the tax­payer hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to view or have any in­put un­til it be­comes an or­di­nance. By law, the city bud­get does not have to be ap­proved and voted on un­til Feb. 1, 2019, which would give am­ple time and op­por­tu­nity for the tax­payer to view and ques­tion this bud­get pro­posal be­fore it is put into ac­tion via city or­di­nance.

Ad­di­tion­ally, there will be put to a vote “merit pay in­creases” for all city em­ploy­ees at this meet­ing. This may or may not in­clude “cost of liv­ing” in­creases as well. There are no pay caps for any de­part­ments to my knowl­edge.

Please plan to at­tend this meet­ing and be ad­vised that our city cur­rently is in debt nearly 16 mil­lion to date (in­clud­ing the much needed wa­ter treat­ment plant up­grade).

You have the right to know how/if /when there is a plan to pay off this debt or is this just go­ing to be left for the next city ad­min­is­tra­tion to fig­ure out. More and much higher taxes are im­mi­nent to be sure.

My fear is that with the cur­rent spend­ing pat­tern cou­pled with the ex­ist­ing debt, we could lose our city char­ter and our “bed­room com­mu­nity” will be­come a sub­urb of Ben­tonville be­cause of our over­whelm­ing and ever in­creas­ing city debt. That is a very real pos­si­bil­ity.

Please plan to at­tend this very im­por­tant meet­ing. Ques­tions need to be asked and an­swered by those who work for you and I the cit­i­zen/tax­payer.

BOB COT­TING­HAM Al­der­man, Ward 1 Po­si­tion 2 Pea Ridge

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