The city of Fort Smith released its proposed operating budget for 2018 on Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 14), projecting $124.212 million in revenues for the year ahead against $117.389 million in expenses.
With an estimated $122,966 shortfall for 2017, the city anticipates working capital to hit $49.194 million by the end of 2018 from a starting point of $42.37 million.
Regarding year-to-year growth, Fort Smith Finance Director Jennifer Walker expects revenues to remain relatively flat, estimating a gain of 3.28% to $124.212 million from an estimated $120.269 million for 2017. On the expense side, city departments turned in $117.389 million of requests for 2018, down 2.5% from an expected finish of $120.392 million for 2017.
General Fund spending, which includes money for the police and fire departments, is budgeted at $42.849 million for next year, up 3.1% from 2017’s estimate of $41.557 million. Expenditures are expected to climb to $41.445 million from $39.72 million, a gain of 4.34%.
End-of-year balances are expected to improve to $14.855 million from $13.451 million. Police spending is expected to hit $15.042 million for 2017. The 2018 budget calls for $14.577 million, a $464,444 reduction while the fire department has submitted $10.536 million for 2018 against an estimated year-end of $10.323 million.
Revenue recommendations for 2018 include instituting a business licensing fee that is expected to bring in $686,818, all going to the General Fund. The city also plans to increase franchise fees to the maximum allowable amount which will generate $554,000, all to the General Fund. The city also plans to institute a water/sewer fund franchise fee to add $100,000 to the General Fund. The city also expects to add another $373,000 to the General Fund by cost avoidance measures that would include $200,000 in vehicle maintenance reductions by moving to a leasing program and shifting $248,000 in Humane Society provisions to the sanitation department.
Recommended General Fund expenditures include a 2.5% cost of living adjustment for employees not covered by police or fire step increases and additional pay increases to police officers and firefighters totaling $665,202 – $321,966 to police, $343,236 to fire. The budget also calls for an additional $100,000 toward the insufficiently-funded older local police and fire (LOPFI) pension plans.
The most substantial recommended new expense for 2018 is $5.864 million devoted to capital expenditures in the utility department to help address, in part, the federal consent decree brought on by years-long violations of the 1973 Clean Water Act. The order is estimated to cost $480 million over a 12-year period that began in 2015.
Walker presented the proposed budget at Tuesday night’s regular meeting of the Fort Smith Board of Directors. The Board has two scheduled meetings to consider the proposed budget that will take place after Thanksgiving on the nights of Nov. 27 and 28 starting at 4 p.m. Both sessions will take place at the Fort Smith Public Library Central Branch on Rogers Avenue.
Link here for the 198-page budget, now available on the city’s website.