Fort Smith departments will have to be frugal next year, administrative officials anticipate.
The city's departments can expect a tight city-wide budget in 2019, city finance director Jennifer Walker said Friday during a special study session. Her statement follows a 2 percent to 3 percent reduction of the city's 2018 budget in June.
“The cuts that we did this year were one-time cuts due to vacancies in the department," she said. "If revenue were to remain flat for next year, we would have to come up with those cuts again, which would be a challenge.”
The budget adjustments this year were due to revenues for county and city sales taxes being behind budget estimates in the first four months of 2018. The adjustment decreased the annual county sales tax budget by about 1.93 percent and the city sales tax budget by about 3.08 percent, according to an attachment in the June 19 Board of Directors meeting packet.
Through May 31, only two of the seven city departments had exceeded their budget estimates for the 2018 fiscal year, according to a budget comparison summary of the city's general fund.
“We've adjusted our year down already. In response to that, our departments have done a great job of reigning in and controlling their budgets," Walker said.
The possibility of a tight budget sparked discussion over whether city employees could be given raises in 2019. City Administrator Carl Geffken said such a possibility would need to be evaluated by the board.
“It’s not a matter of saying, ‘Is it realistic yet?’ I think it’s a matter of, is that a goal of the board of directors for you to say you would like us to consider that, should there be funds available and rank or prioritize those goals?" Geffken said.
In light of the budget possibilities, the board recommended the upgrading of police equipment would take the highest priority in 2019. Pay raises, along with updating their use of the Arkansas Local Police and Fire Retirement System, took a backseat to this priority at the meeting.
Walker said she would be able to more accurately assess possibilities for the 2019 budget soon.
"We’ll start pulling those numbers in mid-to-early August," she said of budgetary estimates.