Fayetteville City Council presented 2024 budget; potential vote to come Tuesday

Financial officer projects 6% revenue increase next year

(File Photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The city's chief financial officer usually keeps his revenue projections a bit on the conservative side -- say about 3%.

But Chief Financial Officer Paul Becker told the City Council during a workshop Nov. 8 he anticipates a 6% revenue increase for next year based on collections from the last few years.

"Would I bet my life on it? No, I wouldn't," Becker said. "But I think that's a reasonable estimate."

Becker projected the city will end the year with nearly $44.7 million in sales tax revenue for the general fund. He anticipated next year will end with nearly $47.4 million, about $2.7 million more than this year.

The general fund makes up about 30% of the city budget and represents most of the city's discretionary spending. Most of the general fund's revenue, about 60%, comes from sales tax. The rest comes from water and sewer fees, property tax, building permits and other sources.

Next year's entire proposed city budget is about $241.6 million. That's up about $24.9 million from this year's adopted $216.7 million budget. The City Council will have an opportunity to vote on whether to adopt next year's budget Tuesday. It must approve a budget by the end of the calendar year, per state law.

Most of the $24.9 million increase, nearly $17.5 million, can be attributed to three funds.

Spending from the general fund would increase by about $8.5 million from $64.8 million adopted for this year to nearly $73.3 million for next year. Becker said most of the increase in the general fund is because of raises for employees. The city had a survey done this year for uniformed personnel, which recommended some substantial increases in pay, he said.

The water and sewer fund next year also would increase by about $4.3 million from $51.4 million adopted this year to $55.7 million proposed for next year. The city has several infrastructure needs for water and sewer, Becker said.

Becker also budgeted more money for bond projects backed by sales tax revenue. This year's adopted bond project budget is $29.9 million. Next year's proposed budget for the projects is $34.5 million, about $4.6 million more.

Becker said sales tax revenue has been higher than anticipated, so more money can go toward paying off bond projects. Paying off the bonds earlier will save taxpayers money on interest payments associated with the bonds. The projects come from a 10-issue bond referendum voters approved in 2019.

Next year's budget proposes adding 17 full-time positions. Positions include two school resource officers, two fire code inspectors for existing buildings and two horticulture assistants. Other positions include a custodian, technical support supervisor in Information Technology, three positions in building safety, a park planner, two water and sewer employees, a recycling and trash collection route driver and a couple mechanics.

Council Member Teresa Turk noted during the Nov. 8 workshop the city has had difficulty finding certified drivers to pick up recycling, yet the administration proposed adding a new position. Some neighborhoods haven't had curbside recycling picked up as a result.

Becker said if the city fails to fill the new position, the budgeted money will go into the general fund as a surplus.

Council Member Sarah Moore said she would like more information on which positions in the city have gone unfilled for more than six months. Becker said the administration would have to set up a new system to track that information, but just because a position goes unfilled doesn't mean it's not needed.

Missy Cole, the city's Human Resources director, outlined to the council new certificate pay programs for transportation and recycling and trash collection employees planned for next year.

"We look at this as an opportunity to attract new staff in areas where we've had vacancies," she said.

The program for transportation employees has three steps, each adding $1 an hour to the employee's wage upon completion. The first step involves core safety training provided in-house. The next two steps are based on a workforce development program through the Center for Training Transportation Professionals at the University of Arkansas. One step focuses on safety and equipment operation, while the other trains an employee in a specific job assignment, such as asphalt work or pouring concrete.

The recycling and trash program has two steps, each adding $1 an hour to pay upon completion. The first is the in-house safety training. The second step concentrates on safe driving through the Fayetteville Public Library's Center for Innovation.

Cole said the new training opportunities will help and pay employees to get their commercial driver's license.

By the numbers

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The following funds make up the proposed 2024 Fayetteville budget:

General — $73,353,000

Water and sewer — $55,755,000

Sales tax bond — $34,555,000

Recycling and trash collection — $17,718,000

Sales tax capital improvements — $14,061,000

Shop — $11,275,000

Street — $10,344,000

Airport — $5,516,000

Parks development — $5,127,000

Library bonds — $2,809,000

Parking — $2,183,000

Impact fees — $1,943,000

Community Development Block Grant — $1,639,000

Police pension — $1,470,000

Fire pension — $1,445,000

Drug law enforcement — $815,000

Hotel, motel and restaurant sales tax bonds — $707,000

Tax increment financing bond — $527,000

Parking deck bonds — $384,000

Replacement and disaster recovery — $40,000

Residential district parking — $11,000

Total — $241,677,000

Source: Fayetteville