ROGERS -- The City Council on Tuesday approved a $78.2 million budget for 2023 as well as one-time bonuses for police.
Full-time police officers will receive $6,000 over the first six months of next year.
Each sworn police officer, dispatcher, crime scene technician and community service officer will receive the money in equal monthly installments.
The payments will be funded by $1,171,830 from the city's general fund reserve.
Between the bonuses and ongoing construction at Northwest Park, the council decided at its Tuesday meeting how the city will use over $11 million of its general fund reserve.
The city's general fund reserve will total approximately $46.9 million at the end of 2022 after the addition of an estimated $8 million this year, according to finance director Casey Wilhelm.
In addition to the police bonuses, city employees next year will receive a 5% cost of living adjustment and be eligible for a merit raise of 2%, according to the adopted budget. The city made an additional 75 cents per hour adjustment for all employees in June.
The decision on police pay comes two weeks after Springdale approved its 2023 budget, which included a 6% cost of living adjustment for city employees and additional 6% raises for police.
That boosted the starting salary for beginning patrolmen to $50,000 in Springdale. The starting salary in Rogers is $44,882 before any adjustments, according to Thomas Dunlap, director of human resources and development.
Rogers staff completed their 2023 budget proposal before Springdale announced it was considering the raises, Dunlap said at a budget meeting last week.
The temporary salary adjustment approved Tuesday will keep the Rogers Police Department competitive with neighboring agencies and give the city time to prepare a long-term recruitment and retention strategy, police Chief Jonathan Best said.
Hiring and keeping employees has been an ongoing challenge throughout the year for the department, according to Best.
The department had 18 open positions as of Nov. 9, he said. This year, about 15 people have been hired by the department and 19 have left, he said. More than half have gone to other law enforcement agencies in the state or region, he said.
The city approved a $5,000 stipend for police officers earlier this year, though more department personnel have left on average each month since the stipend than before, according to Best.
Those one-time stipends, totaling $667,430, were funded by Senate Bill 103, known as the Arkansas Full-Time Law Enforcement Officer Salary Stipend Act of 2022.
The entire 2023 budget approved by City Council on Tuesday includes about $78.9 million in revenue, $78.2 million in expenses and capital projects and a surplus of $713,900. The adopted budget represents a 10% increase from the $71 million budget that was approved for 2022.
The budget also projects a $4.7 million increase in sales tax revenues for 2023, a 12.5% jump from last year, according to Wilhelm. The city is on track for an estimated 13% increase in sales tax revenue for 2022, she said.
Mark Kruger, Gary Townzen, Marge Wolf, Clay Kendall, April Legere, Barney Hayes and Betsy Reithemeyer voted for the police bonuses. Mandy Brashear abstained. Brashear said she felt a conflict of interest because her husband works for the Police Department.
Brashear, Townzen, Wolf, Kendall, Legere, Hayes and Reithemeyer voted for the 2023 budget. Kruger voted against it.
In other business, the construction of Northwest Park will cost at least $10 million more than the project's original amount, which is funded by a $299.5 million bond issue voters approved in 2018.
Work on Will Rogers Drive, which will be extended through the park to 13th Street, will require at least $1 million more for construction.
Material costs have increased about 40% and labor costs have gone up even more since the project cost was estimated in early 2018, according to facilities development manager David Hook. Nabholz Construction of Rogers has been selected for construction management services related to the project.
The council unanimously voted to put $10 million from the city's general fund reserve toward the park construction and $1 million from street fund reserves toward building the road.
The city will continue using parks bond money for the projects before spending funds from the general and street fund reserves sometime around early 2024, Wilhelm said.
Rogers City Council on Tuesday also unanimously approved:
• Using $150,000 from the city’s general fund reserves for design work and construction overages in the renovations of the city-owned Victory Theater, home of Arkansas Public Theatre, at 116 S. Second St.
• A grant agreement with the Walton Family Foundation for arts and culture projects and programming. The foundation will contribute $710,000 to the Victory Theater restoration project in addition to $270,000 for arts and culture programming in the city.
• A private club application for Black Crown Social at 216 E. Poplar St.
• A request by Max Alley to rezone 1604 & 1608 W. Walnut St. from residential single-family zoning to highway commercial zoning.
• A final plat for subdivision Sky Valley Estates on the southwest side of town.
• Creation of an easement by Carroll Electric Cooperative Corp. of Berryville on city-owned land.
• The appointment of Holly VanWinkle to the city’s Museum Commission. VanWinkle’s term will expire at the end of 2025.
Source: NWA Democrat-Gazette