City finances showing improvement, Berry says
The city of Eureka Springs had quite a bit of financial improvement in 2017, Mayor Butch Berry reported at Monday night’s council meeting.
“We kind of started 2017 with a new budget freeze, which came out of our financial restraints that we were facing,” Berry said. “The city council and all the departments and all the city services were responding to this budget freeze with a lot of resolve, rigor and due discipline. On year later, we’ve discovered the financial well-being of the city is much healthier.”
That’s evidenced by the available money in the city’s general fund, Berry said.
“We’ve actually transferred money into reserves,” Berry said. “This reverses a long trend of … withdrawing savings.”
Also in 2017, Berry said, the council adopted and codified a plan to pay off the water and sewer bonds early. That results in a savings of $250,000 in interest alone, he said. He reminded the council of the water and sewer rate increases in 2017, along with the addition of the infrastructure and improvement fee. This was necessary, Berry said, for the city to get back on its feet.
“We are required by state law to operate these city services in a manner that the fees charged cover the costs of providing the services,” Berry said. “We’re required by the bond covenants to operate Fund 80 at a rate of 123 percent, so prior to the water and sewer increase, we weren’t satisfying either of these mandated requirements.”
He added, “We were actually violating law and violating our bond requirements. Since the rate increase, we’re finally in a position of operating in compliance with state law.”
The city has been operating with a tight budget, Berry said, for more than a year now. It seems to be paying off, he said.
“We’re finally seeing the fruits of our labor,” Berry said. “When I ran for mayor, I wanted to focus on infrastructure. We had some very big and very financial constraints that had to be addressed first. There’s no ignoring these financial restraints. They require dealing with and dealing with now.”
He thanked the city’s department heads and council members for all they did to comply with the spending freeze.
“The departments have stood solidly as one during the budget freeze … to hold the line on all spending,” Berry said. “The expenditures for 2017 were at least 10 percent under projections for the year.”
He described how the departments fared individually in 2017, saying the police department had more than 1,600 calls for services, 757 offense and incident reports, 835 uniform citations, 277 arrests and 58 noise violations. The fire department responded to 117 fire and rescue events, Berry said, as well as 1,468 EMS incidents.
“The fire department and EMS also prepared an RFP and was awarded to provide services for the western district,” Berry said, saying the contract comes in at $250,000 per year.
Berry said the City Advertising and Promotion Commission brought in the largest collection in CAPC history in 2017, approximately 35 percent up from 2010. In 2018, he said, the CAPC plans to bring television broadcasts to Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Little Rock, Kansas City, Northwest Arkansas, Joplin and Pittsburgh.
“This will bring awareness to Eureka Springs to 100,000 viewers, many for the first time,” he said.
The city made strides in 2017 to move toward ADA compliance, Berry continued, moving all city meetings to The Auditorium where the facilities are accessible to all.
“We want to thank all the citizens who made ADA compliance a focus area,” Berry said.
Eureka Springs is doing well, Berry said, and that should be true moving forward.
“I’m excited for the future of Eureka Springs and the continued work on our infrastructure,” Berry said. “With the help and support of our citizens, we will continue to make Eureka Springs a good place to live.”