Jonesboro City Council faces numbers crunch for 2016, reserves not growing

by Michael Wilkey (mwilkey@talkbusiness.net) 53 views 

Jonesboro Finance Director Suzanne Allen said Tuesday (June 7) that a look at the city’s balance sheet can be deceiving especially when expenses outpace revenues. Allen said the city is not building reserves, primarily because of a $7 million loss in funding resulting from expiration of the city’s public safety tax in December 2014.

Allen spoke to Jonesboro city council members about the city’s 2016 budget and money already set aside for projects this year and next year. Going into 2016, the city had $33.8 million set aside in a general fund balance minus $5.3 million set aside for emergencies. The city now has $28.5 million set aside in accumulated reserves but faces continued expenses, both Allen and Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin said.

Allen said the city has $11 million for transportation projects, including $8.5 million set aside for STIP projects over the next several years, or roughly 10% of the $90 million that the city is scheduled to receive through 2020. Among the projects include widening of Arkansas 18 and U.S. 49, building an overpass at Highland Drive and Nettleton Avenue, extending Commerce Drive just off Interstate 555 and building an overpass at Arkansas 351 near Airport Road.

The major expenses also include $2.5 million for flood and storm water problems, $2.06 million for upgrading city facilities including $1 million for a proposed shooting range on Moore Road, $147,000 for parks renovations, and $227,500 to help expand the Jonesboro Industrial Park.

Perrin said the city has seen good sales tax numbers, with a $1.2 million increase over 2015 figures. However, Perrin said city officials are cautious with the sales tax numbers and will take a conservative approach in looking at the 2017 city budget later this year.

The council also approved a plan to approve a $14 million, $15 million bond issue for FMH Conveyors. The council’s finance committee voted May 31 to allow for the payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, project. The company, which builds conveyors for the trucking industry, is building a 200,000 square foot facility just off Highland Drive and will hire 110 people.

The council’s Public Works committee and council voted to enter into an agreement with a Memphis based engineering firm for a key intersection project. The $133,627 contract with Fisher/Arnold will help with engineering at the Highland Drive/Southwest Drive intersection. Nearly $2.4 million in improvements will be made at the intersection starting in 2019.

The project will be funded with state transportation improvement funds, or STIP, funding, Perrin said. The improvements could include a building a dedicated right turn lane heading back into Jonesboro, a left turn lane going out of town, two lanes for traffic and possibly installing a new signal light.

In addition to Jonesboro High School, a Walgreen’s and a couple of restaurants already in the area, construction crews are building a new CVS pharmacy, Dairy Queen, Starbucks and McDonald’s at the intersection.

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