During last night’s budget work session, the Board of Directors reached consensus on the overall proposed budget of $111.6 million, an approximate $4 million increase over the 2016 amended budget. The budget is designed to align with the board’s vision and priorities for the City of Hot Springs. The majority of the proposed 2017 increase includes such city priorities as a new citywide radio communications system ($3.2 million); 4% COLA for all city employees; and full funding of the employee health insurance fund.
A total of five new positions are proposed in the 2017 budget: an urban forester to advance the city’s tree maintenance and replacement program; two Planning & Development department positions to enhance neighborhood revitalization; a city compost gate attendant; and a District Court clerk, half funded by Garland County.
The board indicated support for contracted programs that are mutually beneficial in terms of service and cost recovery, such as traffic signal and cell tower maintenance, 911 addressing and Information Systems.
Regarding Animal Services, an area of considerable discussion in recent years regarding reimbursement for the cost of services, the board expressed desire to negotiate an updated agreement that reflects a more equitable cost allocation with Garland County. The county uses 52% of the $685,000 Animal Services program but pays only $211,000 of the costs. Board members also supported the idea of facilitating a smooth transition, should the county decide to establish its own animal services program.
Board direction was requested for the four programs for which the city has no statutory responsibility: the Garland County Health Unit; Garland County Veterans Service Office; Garland County Crisis Intervention Office; and Garland County Department of Emergency Management. The Board indicated support for funding the Garland County Health Unit at $30,000 in 2017 and $15,000 in 2018 to facilitate a smooth transition of fiduciary responsibility to Garland County. Funding at 2016 levels is proposed for the county’s Veteran Services office ($3,600) and Crisis Intervention Office ($23,360). Funding for the Garland County Department of Emergency Management is not recommended for 2017.
The board will consider passage of the 2017 budget at its December 20 regular meeting.