Conway’s budget for 2014 may mark the start of a few leaner years.
Travel and education for city employees and equipment for city offices are cut from the budget the Conway City Council approved this week. The budget is tight for 2014 because of a projection that next year’s sales tax revenue will not increase over this year’s. This year’s sales tax income will be about the same as last year’s or slightly lower, Mayor Tab Townsell told the council on Monday.
Conway’s sales tax revenue declined in 2002 and 2009. Townsell said that 2002’s decline was related to the "dot com" industry bust and 2009’s to the housing "bubble" and general recession. If 2013’s sales tax is down, he said, it’s probably because Fayetteville Shale natural gas operations are winding down.
Combined with the sales tax "plateau" are increased salary expenses from raises that took effect early this year and the unexpected $313,000 increase in city employee health insurance premiums.
Almost all capital purchases are cut from next year’s budget — meaning everything from fax machines to fire trucks.
"The only thing we’re budgeted to buy are bullet-proof vests for the police department and their ammunition," city finance officer Tyler Winningham said. "Other than that, [departments] will have to find room in some other line item to cover it or make a case for the city council to get into reserve money."
City department heads will have a chance to make a case for more money at the council’s yearly retreat, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 18.
Conway has more than $2 million in a reserve account. It is hoped that the reserve will not have to be tapped in 2014.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)