The city of Jonesboro will increase spending by 18.4% in 2018 if the City Council approves the new suggested budget by the city’s Finance Committee.
The proposed $68 million budget is $7 million more than the $61 million Jonesboro is projected take in, but officials think there are several capital improvement projects that need to be completed during the upcoming year, Jonesboro Chief Financial Officer Bill Reznicek told Talk Business & Politics. The city will spend $55 million on operations and maintenance, and another $13 million on capital improvements.
Jonesboro has $38 million in reserves, and state law requires the city to keep at least 15% of its operations and maintenance budget in reserve, meaning it has almost $20 million it can use for additional projects, he said. By the end of next year, the city will have $12.7 million in reserves, not including the mandated reserve. The council has until the end of the year to pass the budget, and it will be on a second reading Tuesday (Dec. 5) night.
“I have no reason to think it won’t be passed,” he said.
The city has been growing and it needs to spend money on several capital improvement projects, he said. Work on a $3.1 million bypass project on Arkansas 18 at the confluence of Highland Drive and Nettleton Avenue is expected to begin next year, and will help to relieve traffic congestion. Another $500,000 will be spent on sidewalks throughout the city. Another $300,000 will be spent on turn lanes on Red Wolf Boulevard. Significant upgrades at the Joe Mack Campbell Sports Complex and the Southside Softball Complex are planned.
The city will spend $1.1 million on a turf project at Joe Mack. Jonesboro hosts about 30 baseball and softball tournaments throughout the spring and summer. An estimated 40,000 people come as a result of these tournaments, according to estimates. Some get rained out or have to be suspended, and the economic impact on tourism dollars can be dramatic. The turf will allow for those tournaments to be held even in inclement weather.
The Jonesboro A&P will dedicate $425,000 towards the project in the coming years. Another $400,000 will be spent on a concession stand project at the complex. At the Southside Softball Complex, the city will spend $850,000 to improve the lighting system, and another $350,000 on a new concession stand.
Budget figures include a slight pay increase for city employees based on the step plan adopted by the city in 2016. Employee will receive a 1.5% pay increase on average, he said. Jonesboro has 580 full-time employees, and about 20 part-time employees. It spends $23.5 million on employee salaries, and another $10 million on benefits such as health insurance, workman’s compensation, and retirement accounts.
Significant increases in spending are always a tough call for civic leaders, but the rapid rate of growth in the city, with about 77,000 residents, has compelled the spending increases, Reznicek said. Street congestion, expanded use of Craighead Forest park, the economic impact of the baseball and softball tournaments and the well being of the city’s employees are a paramount concern in 2018, he said.
“A lot of these are quality of life issues in the city, and we need to address them,” he said.