North Little Rock’s 2022 budget includes salary increases for city employees and elected officials

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North Little Rock City Council approved the 2022 budget on Monday evening which includes a slight increase in revenue projections, signaling the city can comfortably weather the covid-19 pandemic.

Notably, city employees and elected officials will receive another pay rise after council approves separate resolutions confirming the two.

The $ 76.9 million budget will increase spending by $ 2 million over the budget that city council passed last year. City council also approved a 2.5% pay increase for full-time city employees. Part-time workers will receive an increase of 25 cents per hour.

The mayor, council members, the city attorney and the city clerk and treasurer will also receive a 2.5% salary increase.

In a separate resolution, council unanimously approved a deal with the town’s firefighters union that will give a raise to North Little Rock firefighters.

“In short, it’s a lot easier this year than it was last year. Of course, [former mayor] Joe [Smith] made that one, ”said Mayor Terry Hartwick. “But I think our budget spoke for itself. I am very happy with what we have done. “

The budget projects that the city will receive $ 53.7 million in sales tax revenue, an increase of about $ 4.7 million from last year. The city’s sales tax revenue is expected to increase from $ 35 million to $ 38.5 million.

This is the first budget for Hartwick since his return to power in January.

Hartwick campaigned on promising he could be the steady hand that will lead the city through the pandemic, but challenges for North Little Rock remain. Covid-19 cases are on the rise again in Arkansas, homelessness and crime remain high, and the city is struggling to fill many vacancies.

As for the 14 job postings, city officials hope the wage increases will make North Little Rock a more competitive employer that can better retain employees.

“We fought for openings in some departments like any other. You know, private companies are faced with trying to get qualified and qualified staff to stay,” said Steve Baxter, board member.

Hartwick said he was happy to support elected officials’ salary increases, saying board members deserve it to keep working during the pandemic.

Baxter compared the 2.5% salary increase for city council members who earn about $ 11,000 a year to “a happy meal.”

“If people want to fight so that I can afford an extra Happy Meal per month, then they can fight about it, but that’s really all it really means to board members,” Baxter said. .

City council members made only slight changes to the budget, with most disagreements over a proposed $ 60,000 increase to the Arkansas Art Gallery’s funds.

Arguing that towns like Sherwood and Maumelle are not paying their fair share, Linda Robinson was the only city council member to vote against the budget resolution.

“You’ve all been generous. I’d say give them zero,” Robinson said.

The budget remains fairly close to what the city council voted on last year with slight increases for most departments. North Little Rock Police will see the biggest increase with an estimated $ 1.2 million increase in their budget. The fire department will also see an increase of about $ 1 million in its budget.

City council also approved a $ 878,502 increase in the parks fund, bringing it to $ 9.3 million. Some of the new spending will be for maintenance, special projects and the Arkansas Inner Maritime Museum.

Since taking office as mayor in January, Hartwick has tried to improve the town’s outlook with big deals, spending $ 5 million to buy the Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield building and $ 400,000 on a runway. pumping station which he hopes will be the first step towards building a $ 3.5 million park for cyclists.

In addition to increasing the city’s income, the city plans to sell some properties including the City Services Building at 120 Main Street and the police stations which will now be empty with the opening of the Justice Center.

Hartwick said during budgeting 2022 that the city has returned to pre-pandemic times.

A year ago, like much of the county, North Little Rock was reeling from the pandemic as covid-19 cases increased in Arkansas, inundating hospitals with patients putting them on the edge of capacity.

City officials feared a dramatic drop in sales tax revenue as the city’s bars and restaurants remained mostly empty and subject to social distancing restrictions imposed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

But the pessimistic forecast for the city’s budget failed to materialize as the city’s businesses rebounded in the spring when cases of covid-19 plummeted.

“We didn’t have to fight, haggle,” Baxter said. “We didn’t have to bypass any department for any of their needs.”


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