A projected $76,000 increase in available funds was the good news as Eureka Springs City Council members got their first look at a proposed revised 2002 budget Monday afternoon as the mid-year review got underway.
The additional funding will put the year's budget total at $1,874,320.
Only four council members were present as City Administrative Assistant Kim Dickens and Finance Director Diane Murphy went through the proposed changes.
Dickens said the unexpected $75,000 came from a reimbursement payment from the Western Carroll County Ambulance District (WCCAD) plus $1,000 from Carroll County.
That amount in the general revenue accounts may make it possible for city employees to have a 2 percent raise, if the figures are approved by the council.
Most of the members of the Police Department will not get the raise since they have already gotten a raise this year as part of a three-year package.
Dickens said the additional income would allow for the funding of another police officer position for the remainder of the year, a part-time employee for Public Works and a deputy building inspector.
It would also make it possible to give another $5,000 to the library.
One officer's position was eliminated from the original 2002 budget as a cost-cutting measure following the resignation of an officer last year.
"If we have that much money, I think the council members should get their salaries back, all of it, the whole year's worth," said Alderman Jack Dozier.
The council agreed to give up their salaries of $2,400 each to help balance the budget at the beginning of the year. Mayor Beau Satori did not relinquish his $6,000 annual salary.
Alderman James DeVito suggested caution before planning to spend the additional income until the situation with the city's hospital liability insurance costs are known.
The hospital's liability carrier, Reciprocal America, has notified Administrator David Cox that the company will not be allowed to write liability policies after Aug. 1.
Cox has told the hospital commission that in "looking around" he has found the cost of getting liability insurance to be "double or triple what we are paying now -- going from $28,000 per year to $75,000 to $100,000."
As of the commission's meeting June 24, he had not found another insurance carrier.
"The commission has drawn its reserves below the $100,000 level in purchasing new equipment for the hospital," DeVito said. "Granted, the equipment makes money, but it still puts the reserve account in jeopardy if they need a lot of money for a liability insurance policy in a hurry."
Alderman Bryan Sumpter said he had experienced a 60 percent jump in insurance rates for his motel this year.
"Everyone I have talked to has had increases in insurance costs this year," he said. "The city may be facing big increases as well."
The city did have to pay increases in property insurance from the 2002 budget because city property had been seriously under-valued, according to Satori.
Bringing assessment and insurance levels up to replacement costs considerably impacted the budget.
A savings in the city's expense column this year is $25,872 from the projected cost of $40,000 for the purchase of ambulances from WCCAD. The city was able to finance the expenditure over a five-year period. This year's payment will be $14,128.
Murphy was able to negotiate a $5,000 reduction in the contract subsidy for Carroll County Solid Waste fees.
The Mayor's Office category will be charged with $10,000 to repair a stone wall which fell on a parked truck on private property at the intersection of Crescent Grade and Spring Street. The wall was struck by lightning and partially collapsed.
"The Parks Department doesn't want to claim the wall and bear the expense of the repair," Dickens said, "neither does Public Works because both of their budgets are so tight. We put the expense in the mayor's office in the general fund."
In the Transit Department, $10,000 has been transferred into the line item.
Murphy said a budget adjustment request for $15,000 has been made to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) to help with additional expenses.
AHTD administers federal funding for the transit department equipment and maintenance.
In general, the rest of the budget adjustments were reflected in increased benefit costs if the raises are approved, office and cleaning supplies, schools, training, etc.
Council members agreed to hold another budget workshop at 1 p.m. Monday, July 22.
Murphy said she would have some year-to-date figures prepared for income and expenses.
Cox will be asked to provide financial information on the hospital's situation as well.