City council approves city budget

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Eureka Springs City Council approved the city’s 2021 budget at its regular meeting Monday night.

Mayor Butch Berry kicked off the discussion by explaining that all the new council members received a copy of the budget. He said the budget is “strictly a budget.”

“It’s something to go by. It kind of sets our goals and standards for the coming year,” Berry said. “We will be looking at it again mid-year. If anything comes up, heaven forbid, like last year in March, we can always … make changes at that point in time.”

New council member Bill Ott asked who would bring that information to the council’s attention and Berry said he would. The council will also have a monthly budget workshop, Berry said, to keep everyone updated on the state of the city’s finances. When the council members see the budget at those workshops, Berry said, the sales tax report will be two months behind.

“It takes two months for us to get … information back from the state,” Berry said. “That’s the reason we have the budget meeting on the second meeting of the month, because we usually don’t get that information until mid-month.”

Berry said the 2021 budget has a reduction, and finance director Lonnie Clark clarified that there is a 5 percent reduction in revenue.

“And the expenses … are pretty conservative,” Clark said. “I hope we can stay with the revenues that we have projected. It’s anyone’s guess at this point.”

Clark said the council will see some changes to the budget, because the city recently received a check for more than $60,000 from a class-action lawsuit regarding “some of the chemicals that are at the sewer plant.”

“We’ll have to make arrangements for appropriating that revenue and we’re in desperate need for some equipment for our sewer,” Clark said. “We may be getting some additional revenue from that source depending on how the class-action lawsuits are. It’s things like that we’ll need to make some adjustments on.”

Council member Harry Meyer asked Clark how many employees are at the cemetery and Clark said there’s only one. Meyer said he noticed a $3,000 raise for that employee in 2021. That’s not true, Clark said.

“There were no actual raises … in the budget for any city employees,” Clark said. “I just felt under the circumstances that … it would be really short-sighted on our part. At this point in time … we don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

“Well, last year it was $30,000 and this year it’s $33,000,” Meyer said.

Clark said that employee started 2020 on a part-time basis and began working full time as the year went on. That’s why there’s an increase in the salary in 2021, Clark said.

“There really wasn’t a pay increase, per se, for that person,” Clark said.

Council member Melissa Greene asked how the sales tax is doing, and Clark said it looks as if the sales tax revenue for 2020 is “just almost even with the previous year.”

“I was really surprised at the sales tax, quite honestly,” Clark said.

Meyer asked for a breakdown on how the street fund will be spent and Clark said he can get that information to all the council members. Council member Terry McClung asked if everyone at the table had seen the budget and Berry said he sent the budget to everyone, including the new council members.

McClung then moved to approve a resolution for the 2021 budget and the council unanimously agreed to do so. City clerk Ann Armstrong read the budget resolution, which states that the total estimated revenues are $9,689,110 and the estimated appropriations are $9,256,117.

The resolution gives a breakdown of the budget, with line items listed as follows: $3,719,791 in revenue and $3,711,674 in appropriations for the general fund; $999,200 in revenue and $955,234 in appropriations for the street fund; $329,400 in revenue and $251,639 in appropriations for LOPFI; $96,800 in revenue and $92,016 in appropriations for the capital fund; $980,000 in revenue and $979,235 in appropriations for debt service; $9,800 in revenue and $9,800 in appropriations for court automation; $109,600 in revenue and $106,840 in appropriations for the firemen pension fund; $1,903,945 in revenue and $1,812,467 in appropriations for water and sewer; and $1,540,574 in revenue and $1,337,212 in appropriations for transit.

After the council approved the resolution, Clark said he hopes to give city employees raises at some point in the future and resolved “that instead of being 5 percent down on revenues, we’re at least 5 percent up … so we can address and get some of our very good employees the raise they deserve.”

Also at the meeting, Berry told the council it was time to appoint two council members to the City Advertising and Promotion Commission. Council member Terry McClung and former council member Susan Harman served on the commission in 2020. Berry asked who would be interested in joining the commission and everyone raised their hand except for new council member LauraJo Smole.

Meyer nominated Greene and McClung said that wasn’t a fair way to vote since so many council members wanted to be on the commission. Berry suggested that everyone vote on each position instead.

The commission first voted to appoint someone to Position 5, with Greene receiving two votes, Meyer receiving two votes, McClung receiving one vote and Ott receiving one vote. The commission then did a second round of voting for only Greene and Meyer. Both Greene and Meyer received three votes, so Berry voted for Greene to break the tie.

The council then voted for Position 6. Meyer received three votes, McClung received one vote, Ott received one vote and new council member Autumn Slane received one vote. Berry called for a revote and the result was the same.

“Well, in that case I’ll go ahead and cast a vote for Harry Meyer and make it four,” Berry said.

In other business, the council agreed to meet at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of the month in 2021 and appointed McClung as mayor pro tempore. The council also approved a resolution to have a public hearing on vacating a section of the alley in the Freeman addition at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 8, in The Auditorium.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25, at The Auditorium.

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