Rogers to consider $78.2 million budget for 2023; police staffing challenges to be addressed with existing funds, mayor says

ROGERS – The city council on Tuesday will consider spending $78.2 million for next year.

The council listened to presentations from department heads and discussed the 2023 budget proposal during a City Hall meeting on Monday.

The total proposed budget consists of approximately $78.9 million in revenue, $78.2 million in expenses and project capital, and $713,900 in surpluses. The proposed 2023 budget is a 10% increase from the $71 million budget approved in 2022.

because the cost of goods increased this year So there is both revenue and operating expenses for the city, said Casey Wilhelm, director of finance.

Sales taxes are a significant portion of the revenue that supports city operations, Wilhelm said. The proposed budget expects $4.7 million in additional sales tax revenue in 2023, up 12.5 percent from the previous year.

The city is on track for sales tax revenue to grow about 13% in 2022, compared to 15.6% in 2021 and 1.5% in 2020, she said.

The sale of alcohol on Sundays in the city, approved by voters earlier this month, will also lead to sales tax revenue, she said.

Wilhelm said The city estimates revenue very carefully. And do not consider reserve funds to balance the budget. That allowed the city’s reserve fund to grow, she said.

Employees will receive a 5% cost of living adjustment and will be eligible for up to 2% merit, Wilhelm said. The city fined an additional 75 cents an hour for workers in June.

The General Fund budget is approximately $61.7 million, with a surplus of $309,432 expected. Most city departments are included in the General Fund. Although road funds and airports are separate.

About 72% of general funds are paid to employees.

About $41.5 million of city and county sales tax revenues are included in the general fund budget.

Police, fire and park departments account for more than half of the budget’s General Fund expenditures. This includes personnel expenses. and grant projects totaling $35.7 million, or approximately $15.2 million, $13.7 million, and $6.7 million, respectively.

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The police department’s request includes $752,410 for the purchase of vehicles and $200,000 for smaller tools and equipment, such as defibrillators and Apex officer virtual training simulators. The fire department’s request included $275,000 for an ambulance.

public safety personnel

Hiring and retaining staff remains a year-round issue for the police department. Council members heard at Monday’s meeting. Council members who spoke expressed support for making the department more competitive in recruiting and retention.

The short-term solution, to be announced later this year, is not part of the proposed 2023 budget, as it will use available appropriate funds. That will allow city officials to spend next year on a long-term strategy, he said.

Northwestern Arkansas is experiencing a low unemployment rate of about 2.5%, about the same time this time last year. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Thomas Dunlap, Director of Human Resources and Development, said: “The pressure of the local market on every job in every department is as difficult as it can be. that I have experienced in my career.” The pressure started before the outbreak of COVID-19. According to Dunlap,

The Police Department is asking for $84,967 to fund one new position in the proposed budget: Support Services Sergeant, who will maintain equipment and review video involving police body-worn cameras and vehicles, Chief of Police Jonathan. Best said

The department had 18 vacancies as of Nov. 9. According to Best, this year the department has hired about 15 and 19 have left, he said.

“We’re hiring almost as soon as they leave,” he said.

There are various reasons out there. Ten left for other local agencies such as Benton County, Bentonville, Prairie Grove and Russellville, Best said.

11 officers left in the first half of 2021 to work for Walmart’s global investigative unit, he said. Two more went to Walmart this year, he said.

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Departments across the country are facing the same problem, Hines said.

On November 8, Springdale approved a wage sizing for the police department. It allows police departments to raise salaries by 6%, including a $50,000 salary for beginner patrolmen.

The starting salary in the Rogers department was $44,882 before any adjustments to language proficiency, degree or previous experience, according to Dunlap.

Rogers employees completed their proposed 2023 budget before Springdale announced it was considering a capital increase, Dunlap said.

Despite the lower starting rate, Rogers cops may be better compensated overall because of the city’s health and retirement benefits. However, many new hires see salaries as more important than retirement benefits, Dunlap said.

City Approves $5,000 Pay for Police Officers This Summer A one-time wage totaling $667,430 is funded by Senate Bill 103, known as the Arkansas Full-Time Law Enforcement Officer Salary Stipend Act of 2022.

So far, department personnel have left on average each month since they’ve been paid more than before, Best said. Some people leave and are able to maintain their pay because they continue to work for law enforcement, he said. say

When asked if the department needs to add $16,000 for recruiting to its proposed budget, Best said the department plans to meet with a marketing firm soon. and may review the numbers again.

in the end A voter’s decision to reject a Benton County Jail expansion will have a bigger impact on preservation than anything the city can do with the available money, Hines said. It’s frustrating to enforce the law, he said.

“I think that will be our biggest challenge going forward,” he said.

The fire department currently does not have any vacancies, although it has seen a large number of new firefighters and rotated more than usual lately. According to fire chief Tom Jenkins, asking for more money for the department’s recruiting efforts in the year’s budget. 2023

The department and the Risk Reduction Department are asking for $162,442 to add a total of four new jobs – three full-time and one part-time – next year.

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The only other department asking for money for the new position was the Park Service, which offered three more for a total of $123,970.

other spending

The city’s current on-demand two-bus system through Ozark Regional Transit will expand to a three-bus hybrid system under the proposed budget.

Public transport received a budget of $522,000, up from $465,016 last year. along with a $332,000 Walton Family Foundation grant, said John McCurdy, director of community development.

The hybrid system will provide fixed route service in the morning and afternoon. When many passengers use buses to travel and on-demand services in between. When more drivers are running errands on a smaller schedule, he said.

The change will increase the frequency and credibility of the city’s mass transit system. and increase capacity by another 50%, he said.

“I use buses quite a bit to get to work and home. And it’s just unreliable,” McCurdy said. “I think this is a logical next step in the evolution of transport in Rogers.”

McCurdy said arts and culture programs will be funded by $270,000 in the proposed budget.

Railyard Live’s concerts and related downtown events attract an average of 700 people per event and almost double the ticket sales revenue from table reservations, he said.

The Walton Family Foundation will donate $270,000 for the programming. and a $715,000 grant for the renovation of the Victory Theater, where the Arkansas Public Theater is located. The renovation would more than double the capacity of the downtown building, he said.

Museum director Serena Barnett said The Rogers Historical Museum expects to spend $250,000 on the outdoor green space project to renovate the campus.

City executives have also proposed spending $280,000 on roof work for city buildings, $170,000 on capitol renovations, $180,000 on tank trucks for the Park Service, and $120,000 on trail maintenance.

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