October 28, 2015 Edition

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Hoxie budgets for 2016

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The loss of supplemental work through the inmate work-release program, low sales tax revenue with a grocery store hanging in the balance and continued increases in cost has left the city of Hoxie in a bind while planning its 2016 budget.

Currently in the midst of a series of meetings focusing on pinching every penny, the budget committee is facing adjustments such as cutting services and increasing rates in an effort to come up with a budget that will keep Hoxie going.

Mayor Lanny Tinker said while multiple issues have contributed to the state of Hoxie's finances, the one the city was least prepared for is the loss of the work-release program, which supplemented as much as $50,000 in labor for the city.

Since the program was cut, the city has made use of some part time workers, but mostly has just shifted employees where they're needed on any given day. Street and sanitation employees are the most common to swap job responsibilities back and forth as needed, and at times, those with the proper training have even assisted the water department.

An additional employee to cover the garbage route is one of Tinker's major concerns, however the city is working with a minimal staff in all departments across the city. This is nothing new to Hoxie, however as Tinker said, he doesn't believe that Hoxie has been properly staffed as long as he's been in office or for many years prior.

The minimal staff has posed multiple concerns for the city. The city is only staffed to handle one repair job at a time, which means maintenance and repairs can pile up. The minimal staff also requires employees to be more flexible and has caused comp time to build up for many employees.

Even with the small staff, the city is still struggling financially. A new Save-A-Lot grocery store could provide some reprieve through generated sales tax revenue for the city, but continued delays in the sale of the former grocery store building mean the committee has to work on a budget without that revenue.

The committee will continue to look at figures regarding reduction of services, such as limb pickup and city cleanups, and increases in both fire and sewer rates. They will also look into adjustments to be made to the service center, which barely brought in more than it cost the city before the recent loss of a weekly renter.

The committee must also explore the possibility of operating without a county jail, though Tinker said the city wouldn't be effected nearly as much as the county. "That will break the county," he said.

Tinker said that most of the past cost cutting measures are in direct reaction to an increase in costs for the city. The garbage pickup was cut to once a week when the city's tipping fees increased. The net operating income didn't change for the city.

The cost-cutting measures to be taken now are mostly in reaction to the loss of the inmate work-release program. "I know I keep coming back to it, but it was really vital to the city," Tinker said.

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