The City of Crossett is projected to have a $300,000 shortfall in the budget as a result of COVID-19’s impact on the economy.
Mayor Crystal Marshall said that her office had been working directly with the Arkansas Municipal League to get a projected forecast, and that after looking at the three major incomes that the city receives they realized that the city needed to be proactive with the budget.
“In these unprecedented and trying times, COVID-19 has impacted and shaped every aspect of our lives and the city is no exception,” Marshall said.
Marshall said the city has three major streams of revenue. One of those is the fuel tax, which was projected to fall 30 percent in the months of April, May and June and 20 percent from July through December.
“The state gets 70 percent, the city gets 15 and the county gets 15, but nobody is driving so we are not getting that,” Marshall said.
“What the municipal league told us about a month ago is to expect a 30 percent decline in (fuel tax) for the next three months and then a 20 percent decline for the following six months.”
The other two major incomes come from general turnback funds and sales tax.
“For the general turnback, which is a much lower one, they said to expect 40 percent for the next three months and 20 for the following six, Marshall said.
“On sales tax they said it’s really questionable, but we are safe if we plan for a 10 percent decline,” she said.
Marshall said that she wanted to remain hopeful that sales tax would not drop as much projected, but that it was important to plan ahead.
In light of the projected declines, Marshall, Deputy Clerk Lisa Gulledge, and city accountant Mark Terrell met with all of the department heads to evaluate the most efficient way to trim the budget to fit the projections.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is that we all sat down as a team to shave the budget as carefully as we could to have little impact on our citizens,” Marshall said. “It’s never easy to make cuts, but everyone came together on this.”
Marshall said there were a few employee vacancies that had opened up in recent months that the city was preparing to fill. Public Works Director Jeff Harrison said that he had three in streets and sanitation, but instead of filling those he just moved some people around which allowed for him to free up more than $70,000 dollars of the budget.
Harrison said positions have been combined and some employees are having to wear many hats. The assistant police chief also recently retired and Marshall said that is another vacancy that the city will be holding off on in an effort to save money as well.
Other cuts included the decision to postpone new garbage truck purchases which were planned for this year, to postpone the purchase of a vehicle that was budgeted for the Parks and Recreation Department and to hold off on some of the dilapidated property remediation that was planned.
Marshall said that hopefully no more cuts will be necessary, but the city administration will continue to monitor the budget closely.