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Arkansas side's finances healthy, officials say

Arkansas side's finances healthy, officials say

November 14th, 2018 by Karl Richter in Texarkana News

A conservative approach including spending cuts has led to Texarkana, Ark.'s best financial condition in recent years, City Manager Kenny Haskin said after a budget workshop Tuesday.

Finance Director TyRhonda Henderson presented Haskin and members of the city Board of Directors with a review of 2018's budget and a look ahead to 2019's, highlighting changes in major revenues and expenditures. The figures reflect the city's financial priorities, Haskin said.

"The theme all year has been sustain and retain. In other words, cut where you can without eliminating staff or city services. This is the best we've looked financially in over six to seven years," he said.

City staff in every department were asked to cut spending from the general fund by a total of $625,000 in 2019. Results include forgoing a cost-of-living pay raise for all city employees.

The Fire Department also will leave one position, and the Police Department two positions, vacant and unbudgeted in 2019. Still, spending on the Fire Department will top $5 million, or 26 percent of general fund expenditures, and the Police Department will account for more than $8 million, or
41 percent.

Henderson praised the staff's performance under difficult circumstances.

"Our departments are doing the absolute best they can with what they have," she said.

The 2019 budget anticipates modest increases in revenues from the city's main three income sources. Property taxes are expected to increase by 2 percent, sales taxes by 0.8 percent and franchise fees by 1 percent. Those sources account for 14 percent, 50 percent and and 15 percent of budgeted general fund revenues, respectively.

How people spend their money in the city could change those numbers, Haskin said.

"Consumer spending was up a bit this year, which is always a good sign. However, I would caution that because spending is up now doesn't mean it will remain that way over time. So it's safer to budget and project conservatively rather than get too excited and overextend yourself," he said.

City fiscal policy requires reserving 60 days' worth of expenditures in the general fund. Henderson said she expects 81 days' worth, or $4.4 million, to remain in the fund by the end of 2018 and 71 days' worth, or $3.9 million, to be held in reserve by the end of next year.

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