The Conway City Council voted 5-2 to approve an ordinance adopting the 2011 budget Tuesday night during its final meeting of 2010.

Council members Mark Vaught and Mary Smith voted against the ordinance.

Lowell McClanahan, interim chief financial officer, recommended the council adopt the budget during a special committee meeting held before the council’s regular meeting. He stressed that the council approve the budget with the understanding that it could be revised if voters approve the restructuring of a pre-dedicated sales tax.

McClanahan also reminded council members that the city needs to establish a general fund reserve and encouraged them to solve problems before they happen rather than try to find emergency funds.

Conway mayor Tab Townsell echoed McClanahan’s statements and recommended that the council adopt the budget. He said the rededication of a previously dedicated sales tax would help build back the general fund reserve.

Townsell mentioned that the rededication "would not raise taxes, but extend taxes."

The public would vote on the issue in spring 2011.

The 2011 budget totaled over $54.1 million.

McClanahan said all other funds were healthy, but the general fund was where the majority of the issues were found. Townsell said the general fund makes up slightly less than half of the total budget.

The budget contains over $25.8 million in departmental requests in the general fund, including $7.9 million for fire, $9.8 million for police and $2.6 million for parks.

The budget includes a $187,000 increase in workers compensation for city employees, but does not include step/grade or cost of living increases. Those will be addressed pending the tax distribution change.

McClanahan noted that the budget includes $868,000 in state turn-back money. The most recent U.S. Census found a population increase in the city of Conway, which allows the city to receive more turn-back money per person from the state.

The proposed budget included over $100,000 for salaries and benefits of six new Parks Department employees, however, the council voted to deduct that amount from the budget. If created by the council, a blue ribbon committee, which would make proposals for the city’s future, would decide on the creation of part-time jobs in the Parks Department.

Vaught stressed that he could not support a budget that included such an increase in the Parks Department budget, while other departments were cutting back.

McClanahan was pleased with the council’s decision and said the city should now be focused on planning ahead, instead of finding a "band-aid" for emergency issues that may arise.

In other business, the council:

• Approved an ordinance updating the city’s electrical code by adopting the 2011 National Electric Code and amending administrative provisions for the enforcement of the electrical code;

• Adopted an ordinance appropriating and accepting restitution funds and accepting grant funds for the Conway Police Department;

• Adopted a resolution requiring an audit of the accounting of the city of Conway.

(Staff writer Stephanie Fischer can be reached by e-mail at stephanie.fischer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1238. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)