The Hot Springs Board of Directors approved the city’s FY 2017 budget by a 5-1 vote during last night’s regular meeting, held in the Board Chambers at City Hall. The following includes highlights of next year’s budget.
Budget development was based on the board’s current vision and priorities as outlined in the city’s comprehensive plan, board-identified goals and strategies, and downtown redevelopment and parking plans.
Revenues and expenditures
The 2017 total expense budget is $111.6 million, approximately $4 million over the 2016 amended budget, mainly due to the new $3.2 million allocated for police/fire radio communication system upgrade. Total 2017 General Fund revenues are conservatively projected at $23.6 million (a 2.5% increase). Total citywide revenues are projected at $108.7 million.
COLA and health insurance
The proposed budget includes a 4% COLA to attract and retain qualified employees, and full funding of the employee wellness fund for all city employees. For the first time, health insurance funding includes a before-tax contribution of $20 per month from each city employee.
The 2017 budget provides for five new full-time positions. This includes two new Planning & Development positions, to improve code compliance and property maintenance; a new Public Works urban forester position; a composting facility gate attendant; and half the funding for a clerk for District Court.
Garland County Health Department
Following an amendment that was proposed by Director Fale and passed by the board, 2017 funding for the Garland County Health Unit was approved for $45,000, with a direction to staff that the 2018 funding level be set at $15,000.
In addition to the Garland County Health Unit, the City of Hot Springs is also contributing to funding for the County Veterans Service Office and a position in Juvenile Court, none of which are required by any statute.
Other funding priorities
The 2017 budget includes a reserve of $200,000 for the possible purchase of downtown property to implement the city’s parking plan; $1.1 million in street and sidewalk improvements; and $10.1 million in capital improvements.
Citywide radio communication system
A proposed $3.2 million is budgeted for the police/fire radio communication system upgrade, one of the city’s highest priorities. Of the total project cost of $6 million, $1.6 million from the proceeds of a 2.6 mil property tax levy is expected in 2017. This will be matched by $546,000 from the water fund, $412,000 from the wastewater fund and $638,000 from the solid waste fund.
Grant- and bond-funded projects
The city has recently been awarded the following grants for 2017 projects: $130,000 for Malvern Avenue infrastructure improvements; $620,000 for trail and sidewalk development; $690,000 (spread over three years) for Whittington Avenue infrastructure upgrades and $48,000 for the North Woods trail development. The city will pursue $750,000 in additional grants in 2017.
Approximately $20 million of 2013 wastewater system bond-funded improvements remains, of which $6.6 million is committed, with the additional planned in 2017. There is a balance of $2.3 million in 2014 water system bond upgrades and $7.6 million in 2015 water system bond upgrades that will continue to improve service delivery in the coming year.
The approved 2017 budget is balanced, providing the necessary funding for many of the priorities of the Hot Springs Board of Directors. The projected 2017 ending General Fund balance of $5.5 million is consistent with the previous five-year average.