The Crossett City Council voted Friday to adopt an approximately $5 million budget for fiscal year 2019 that includes funds for new police cars, improvements to the Crossett Youth Center and equipment for the city’s drainage department.
The budget includes a projected $4,734,065 in operating revenue for the year and 4,953,156.37 in operating expenses.
The budget anticipates a carryover of $700,000 from 2018.
Councilwoman Lynn Rodgers said the city has not had a better budget in her time on the council.
“This is the best budget I have ever seen,” she said, to which Assistant City Clerk-Treasurer Lisa Gulledge replied, “It’s been probably the easiest to do.”
The police department’s funding made up $1,769,740.03 of the total budget, up from $1,712,824.91 in 2018 because it included $60,000 for new police cars.
The fire department’s budget for the coming year is $1,681,100, up from 2018’s $1,529,575.77. The two biggest expense increases are an additional $40,000 for insurance billing services and $20,000 for medic school expenses related to the ambulance service.
The street department’s budget — which in 2018 was $ 495,450 — was set for 2019 at $462,064.97.
During the discussion that preceded the adoption of the budget, the council discussed the possibility of setting a bond election for city sewer upgrades. Council members also mentioned the possibility of including properties such as the City Auditorium on such a bond.
The sewer improvement project, which economic development officials and members of the Crossett Sewer Commission have been pushing for in recent years, is a looming issue.
“It is something we have got to face,” Mayor Scott McCormick said.
Even if the city decided to seek the election, the preparatory work required for the bond issue would mean it still wouldn’t be sent to the voters for another year, Gulledge said.
“We are just going to have to decide what we are going to do,” McCormick said. “We have to figure out what needs to be done most.”
Since the election would not fall under the 2019 fiscal year, however, the council members ultimately decided not to budget for it.
The council also decided to increase the $20,000 allocation for repairs to the Crossett Youth Center to $25,000.
Councilwoman Crystal Marshall said that in addition to the repairs to the youth center itself, the basketball courts needed an upgrade. The courts are cracked, but they are still very used, she said.
Marshall said she would like the city to look into alternative surfaces to the current concrete court surface, which can be very slick at times.
The increased allocation will provide $15,000 for the repair of a support beam in the center that has fallen and blocked access to one set of stairs, and will have $10,000 to repair the courts.
At the end of the meeting, Gulledge said the $700,000 in carryover funds are in a market account that earns approximately the same amount of interest that a certificate of deposit does.
While the council did not commit to a plan that would change how the carryover funds are handled, Gulledge said she would look into finding out if the city could move the money into a financial instrument that might earn a better interest rate.
The discussion and the adoption of the budget were technically in two separate meetings Friday.
The adoption of the budget formally happened Friday afternoon with a vote of the council after the city had an ordinance drafted, but all of the decisions and alterations to the proposal happened at the earlier meeting.