State of the city: City finances showing improvement, mayor says

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The city of Eureka Springs had quite

a bit of financial improvement in 2017,

Mayor Butch Berry reported at Monday

night’s council meeting.

“We kind of started 2017 with a new

budget freeze, which came out of our financial

restraints that we were facing,”

Berry said. “The city council and all the

departments and all the city services were

responding to this budget freeze with a lot

of resolve, rigor and due discipline. On

year later, we’ve discovered the financial

well-being of the city is much healthier.”

That’s evidenced by the available money

in the city’s general fund, Berry said.

“We’ve actually transferred money into

reserves,” Berry said. “This reverses a

long trend of … withdrawing savings.”

Also in 2017, Berry said, the council

adopted and codified a plan to pay off the

water and sewer bonds early. That results

in a savings of $250,000 in interest alone,

he said. He reminded the council of the

water and sewer rate increases in 2017,

along with the addition of the infrastructure

and improvement fee. This was necessary,

Berry said, for the city to get back

on its feet.

“We are required by state law to operate

these city services in a manner that the fees

charged cover the costs of providing the

services,” Berry said. “We’re required by

the bond covenants to operate Fund 80 at

a rate of 123 percent, so prior to the water

and sewer increase, we weren’t satisfying

either of these mandated requirements.”

He added, “We were actually violating

law and violating our bond requirements.

Since the rate increase, we’re finally in a

position of operating in compliance with

state law.”

The city has been operating with a tight

budget, Berry said, for more than a year

now. It seems to be paying off, he said.

“We’re finally seeing the fruits of our

labor,” Berry said. “When I ran for mayor,

I wanted to focus on infrastructure.

We had some very big and very financial

constraints that had to be addressed

first. There’s no ignoring these financial

restraints. They require dealing with and

dealing with now.”

He thanked the city’s department heads

and council members for all they did to

comply with the spending freeze.

“The departments have stood solidly as

one during the budget freeze … to hold

the line on all spending,” Berry said. “The

expenditures for 2017 were at least 10 percent

under projections for the year.”

He described how the departments fared

individually in 2017, saying the police department

had more than 1,600 calls for

services, 757 offense and incident reports,

835 uniform citations, 277 arrests and 58

noise violations. The fire department responded

to 117 fire and rescue events, Berry

said, as well as 1,468 EMS incidents.

“The fire department and EMS also

prepared an RFP and was awarded to

provide services for the western district,”

Berry said, saying the contract comes in at

$250,000 per year.

Berry said the City Advertising and

Promotion Commission brought in the

largest collection in CAPC history in

2017, approximately 35 percent up from

2010. In 2018, he said, the CAPC plans

to bring television broadcasts to Dallas,

Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Little Rock, Kansas

City, Northwest Arkansas, Joplin and

Pittsburgh.

“This will bring awareness to Eureka

Springs to 100,000 viewers, many for the

first time,” he said.

The city made strides in 2017 to move

toward ADA compliance, Berry continued,

moving all city meetings to The Auditorium

where the facilities are accessible to all.

“We want to thank all the citizens who

made ADA compliance a focus area,” Berry

said.

Eureka Springs is doing well, Berry said,

and that should be true moving forward.

“I’m excited for the future of Eureka

Springs and the continued work on our

infrastructure,” Berry said. “With the help

and support of our citizens, we will continue

to make Eureka Springs a good place

to live.”

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