Budget workshop: Council considers adding department for city clerk

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Eureka Springs city clerk Ann Armstrong might have more direct access to funds in 2019.

At a budget workshop Jan. 8, the Eureka Springs City Council heard from finance director Lonnie Clark about proposed changes to the 2019 budget. Clark said Armstrong proposed her own budget category, with $221,166 in revenue and $35,341 in expenses. Clark said the revenue would stay in the general fund, saying he’s considering creating a separate category for Armstrong’s expenses.

“We will have the same numbers,” Clark said. “It’ll just be in a different place.”

“For me, that all should just fall under the mayor’s budget,” said alderman Terry McClung. “Why not? Basically it’s all for the good of one, so what difference does it make?”

Armstrong said it makes a major difference. Her budget has been tied to the mayor’s office since she was elected years ago, Armstrong said, and she must ask Mayor Butch Berry for money when she needs it. Alderwoman Susan Harman asked if Armstrong has difficulty receiving money, and Armstrong said that’s not why she requested the budget changes.

“This has always been unacceptable to me,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong remembered when Beau Satori was mayor, saying the city clerk/treasurer was overwhelmed by the duties. The city council approved an ordinance to relieve that burden with the creation of the city finance department, Armstrong said.

“I understand that the creation of the finance department was essential for the health of the city. That’s not a problem,” Armstrong said. “But the way the ordinance was written prevented any future capable people from doing the job.”

She continued, “Basically, finance went under the wing of the mayor and the mayor became the mayor/treasurer, and the person who was elected to do the job of city clerk/treasurer could not do the job, because that person was blocked from doing that.”

Armstrong said she was seeking to rectify that when she asked council to add a category for the city clerk to the 2019 budget.

“This is a step toward re-establishing the balance of city government, as it’s designed to be,” Armstrong said. “It’s not a problem with the money. The money has always been right, but it’s not right for a person elected to a four-year office to go to another person elected to a four-year office and say, ‘May I please?’ “

“What this does is it gives definition to the position,” McClung said.

Clark asked the council for a general consensus on what to do, and everyone agreed to create a new budget category for the city clerk. Clark said he’d add that to the budget before submitting the final proposal to the council.

“If that’s OK with everyone, that’s what I’ll do,” Clark said.

The council addressed other proposed budget items, hearing from CAPC director Mike Maloney about the need for new signage. Maloney said Eureka Springs went into an agreement with the Northwest Arkansas Council to add signage throughout town in 2012. The signage in Eureka Springs looks the same as the signage in towns like Bentonville, Rogers and Fayetteville, he said.

“We started in 2018 with the next series of signs,” Maloney said. “Unfortunately, we had a sign on 23 South that was annihilated by a truck of something. We are also getting replacement panels for the signs across the street from Rapid Robert’s.”

Maloney said the CAPC is requesting $11,000 from the city for new and updated signage.

“The CAPC took the brunt of the load, and we’re asking the council to add the $11,000 for 2019 and 2020,” Maloney said.

Berry said he appreciates the signage.

“I think everybody who has driven to town can see the benefits of the signs up there,” Berry said. “It’s nice signage all the way around.”

It was important to the Northwest Arkansas Council to include Eureka Springs in the signage, Maloney said, even though the initiative mostly focuses on Washington and Benton counties.

“The reason this whole project came about was the Walton Family Foundation felt like it needed to be a unification of signage throughout Northwest Arkansas,” Maloney said, saying the Waltons are one of many wealthy groups behind the Northwest Arkansas Council.

Clark said he put the $11,000 for signage in the proposed 2019 budget. He described other changes in the proposed budget, including moving $125,000 to reserves. Clark said he’s excited to move money to reserves after years of working toward that goal.

“As you all know, I prioritize adding to reserves, and that’s exactly what that money is for,” Clark said.

Also in the proposed budget, Clark said, is a 3 percent raise for all city employees. Employees received a 5 percent raise last year, Berry said, but that was because there were no raises in 2016 and 2017. Berry said he’s happy to reward those who work for the city. Clark said he would keep working on the budget, saying he’ll present it to the council for approval soon.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, at The Auditorium.

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