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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott is shown at the state Capitol in Little Rock. - Photo by John Sykes Jr.

City directors today will consider a budget amendment that would reduce Little Rock's expenditures for the rest of 2019 by about $2.1 million, with the largest cuts to parks, youth programs and outside agencies.

The new proposal, submitted by the city's Finance Department and available online, is a revision of the gentler of two options that Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and finance director Sara Lenehan presented to the board last week.

Their initial recommendation would have reduced city expenditures by about $2.3 million for the remainder of 2019, which, if the cuts continued year to year, would have had an annual net impact of about $5.3 million. The revision would have an annual net impact of about $5 million.

Lenehan said Monday that the department adjusted the budget based on feedback from city directors at last Tuesday's meeting. Officials expressed concern about cuts to the Parks and Recreation Department and the city's allotment to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The revised proposal cuts $361,635 from the Parks and Recreation Department, compared with the initial $514,135 for 2019 or more than $1 million from the department's budget annually, including the elimination of 26 positions, 17 of which are filled. Lenehan said the revision cuts five fewer jobs.

The proposal includes $384,000 in cuts to the city's contributions to outside agencies, including $500,000 less in 2019 to Rock Region Metro, with the money to be reallocated to the city's street fund.

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Proposed ordinance amendment

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It also recommends decreasing the city's annual allocations to the Museum of Discovery by about $38,000 and the Downtown Little Rock Partnership by about $50,000. The impact on those agencies for the remainder of 2019 would be half those amounts, if the changes were applied year to year.

The cut in funding to the museum is smaller than the one recommended Tuesday, while the reductions in allocations to the area's transit agency and the downtown nonprofit remained the same.

The city's contract with the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce would decrease by $100,000, cutting the annual contribution by one-third instead of the one-half that was initially proposed.

A $375,000 reduction to prevention, intervention and treatment programs for 2019 remained the same, as did $173,787 in cuts to the Housing and Neighborhood Programs Department, which would come in part due to eliminating six filled positions.

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Budget amendment

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The proposal still factors in the closure and repurposing of two municipal golf courses. It doesn't specify which ones, though it allocated $160,000 in funding for the First Tee course off South University Avenue for April through July.

Lenehan said that even the slightly smaller cuts would help remedy the city's budget situation. The city experienced a net loss of about $7 million in 2018, prompting Scott to say last month that the city needed to plan for its long-term future.

"These are steps that are needed to kind of match our recurring expenses," she said.

At least one city director reached Monday isn't sure if the changes are enough.

"I appreciate everything that they've done so far. Is it enough for me? No," At-large City Director Joan Adcock said.

Adcock said she was concerned about cuts to agencies like the Museum of Discovery, which set their budgets for the whole year based on the amount of money they anticipate getting from the city. She said the possible closure of two golf courses also concerned her, because the Hindman course is somewhere "everyday" people feel comfortable going to, and the one at War Memorial has a lot of history.

Another director, Ken Richardson of Ward 2, said the number of "boots-on-the-street" positions, where city employees deal directly with the community, stood out to him.

"I want to make sure we don't have any sacred cows or sacrificial lambs," Richardson said. "I want to make sure that everything's going to be fair and equitable across the board."

An amendment to the budget must be approved by the city board, which will continue its discussion and decide how to move forward when it meets at 4 p.m.

A Section on 05/14/2019

Print Headline: Little Rock directors to consider revised budget proposal; $2.1M reduction would cut parks, youth programs

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Comments

  • RBear
    May 14, 2019 at 6:23 a.m.

    I find it funny to read the comments of some of the directors who are instrumental in putting the city in this fiscal position after passing unsustainable budgets year after year. Adcock, who has served far too long on the board, gripes about Hindman Golf Course, a course I took a golf class on while at UALR. Maybe Adcock should try to go out there when it rains to see if she can actually get to the course.
    ...
    The city must make budget cuts and all we have are a bunch of whiny directors who apparently never really understood budgeting in the first place. Is there any reason why I call for a shakeup in the board where someone has to die for a position to open up?

  • Jfish
    May 14, 2019 at 6:57 a.m.

    Rbear, I don't know if the golf course should be on the chopping block, however, the water is only a problem a few times during the spring, not for most of the summer. Many golf courses, soccer fields, etc., are located in low lying areas because these areas cannot be developed and the land is cheap. I would like to see the Mayor eliminate his security detail, I figure that is at least $100K and could save a couple of jobs elsewhere.

  • RBear
    May 14, 2019 at 7 a.m.

    JFish yea, but is it really worth the expense? That security detail is minor compared with the golf course expense. That's needles to haystacks in my opinion. All I've heard from several in here are about the needles. This city needs to move some big rocks if it's going to get on its feet financially. What I'm more worried about than the golf courses are the cuts to treatment programs. Want to see something that has a snowball effect (pardon the pun)?

  • Illinoisroy
    May 14, 2019 at 7:31 a.m.

    Reduction in public sector employees should make GMAC and Moz happy. Golf is an elitist sport but doubt if the elitist play at a municipal course anyway. Baseball baby!

  • Illinoisroy
    May 14, 2019 at 7:33 a.m.

    Meant to add that a real working man doesn't have time during the daylight to participate in sissy sport like golf.

  • PopMom
    May 14, 2019 at 7:48 a.m.

    The city should not cut any programs for the youth. In fact, it should slash everything that is not dedicated to the youth. If the kids are kept busy in the summer, then they are less likely to be dealing drugs and robbing people.

  • drs01
    May 14, 2019 at 8:41 a.m.

    I wish some posting here were from people who should read public documents like the "Think Big" one created by a group of under 40's filled with ideals and no method to pay for implementing them. That is what this city has been dealing with for over 25 years. Read Brummett today and you will see what happens when ideals meet reality. The budget cuts don't go far enough. For instance, contributions to Rock Regional Metro that go towards that yellow tourist trolley should be paid by the Convention Bureau. Is $500,000 all we pay? or is there more?
    Cutting the gift to the Chamber which serves as a political arm for the real estate community is not enough. And the downtown partnership needs even less of our money.
    Yes, there may be the need to replace some of the aging city directors, and that's what the VOTERS can do by offering BETTER candidates and supporting them with your time and money. Changing the rules is not the answer that some have recommended.

  • Bullgod1984
    May 14, 2019 at 9:55 a.m.

    I find it funny that they've not decided on budget cuts yet employees at war memorial golf course were told yesterday that they were closing with no comment from the mayor's office

  • RBear
    May 14, 2019 at 11:20 a.m.

    BG if what you say is true, and I'm not saying it isn't, yes that's a pretty pathetic move by the city. I'm glad Scott is confronting this fiscal issue, but the tactics don't seem to be in line with his vow of full transparency.
    ...
    drs I will read that column. With regards to the "Think Big" plan, I need to dig into that. I don't have a problem with strategic plans that don't have funding mechanisms identified. They are designed to set a direction. However, when it comes time to turn them from strategic to tactical then they have to have funding measures. Little Rock doesn't seem to have a good handle on the budget process and I'm guessing some of these directors have been rubber stamps up to this point.

  • MBAIV
    May 14, 2019 at 2:10 p.m.

    RBEAR -- Is my calculator broken again -- looks to me like the mayor's special security cost us about half the golf course losses. That's not minor.
    .
    Until the Trolley system is gone from the budget, they are not serious about making cuts. That tourist attraction, when there is someone actually on it, should be funded by the Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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