Van Buren mayor presents $12.071 million 2014 budget

Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman presented the city council a $12.071 million FY 14 budget at a special meeting Monday (Dec. 2).

The budget is an increase of more than $200,000 over the FY13 budget and includes both pay raises and an increase in personnel.

"It's a 1.5% cost of living (raise) and three additional firemen and one additional policeman and then some minor (line item) adjustments."

Funding for the three additional personnel is coming from the 1% sales tax passed by Van Buren voters last year. The sales tax is split between a permanent half-cent for operational expenses and another temporary half-cent for construction of several different municipal facilities, including a new police department, fire department and a new senior center.

Freeman said the new police officer position will not be on patrol, but instead will be assigned to the city's municipal complex nestled between Main Street and Broadway.

"(We are) putting a metal detector at the front door here. It's just the way it is today and we don't want to pull someone off patrol."

The increase in security comes after a gunman opened fire at the Crawford County Courthouse on Sept. 13, 2011, injuring two before being killed in a shootout with police on the courthouse lawn.

The average salary, including benefits, for all four new employees would total about $50,000 per year, Freeman said.

The one area many governments and businesses have seen large increases in spending is health care, but Freeman said the city's premiums have stayed nearly the same as last year.

"Our health insurance is through the (Arkansas) Municipal League. What drives our increases are the losses (caused by claims). There may be some elements in there that change. But if our claims our down, then our health care stays even."

The city's current health care plan is evaluated for premium increases every six months, he said, adding that the next evaluation would take place in July 2014.

Freeman said the city's budget should pass without much opposition from the city council, which did not vote on the budget at tonight's meeting but instead will vote during a regular session later this month.


"Our finances were so tight in the past. We've gone through and cut where we could cut. So we have no fluff."

No other items were on the special meeting's agenda.

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