No property tax increase for city residents

Fayetteville’s $18 million fiscal year 2021-22 budget will not include a property tax increase although one was included in the first round of budget discussions. The board of mayor and aldermen held two special called work sessions with Finance Director Stacy Rozell to go over the proposed budget line item by line item.

A 15-cents property tax increase was included in the first round of budget talks during the Thursday, April 15 meeting, but by request from the board, it had been removed for last week’s meeting. By eliminating the property tax increase, the fire department was impacted the most. Removing the assistant fire chief’s position and not hiring three full-time firemen reduced $212,000 in salaries from the total budget. Funding additional fire department personnel was discussed during the February 27, 2021 Strategic Planning meeting. At that meeting, Vice Mayor Danny Bryant asked, “Are we willing to come up with additional revenue to solve the problems.” The city is limited by law as to how it can raise revenue.

Although Vice Mayor Danny Bryant said during last week’s work session that he didn’t have a problem with the property tax increase, he did say, “We can’t dump a 15-cent property tax on the people after a year with Covid.”

The last property tax increase was in 2013.

Aldermen Dorothy Small, Jeff Alder and Donna Hartman objected to the property tax increase at the first work session. Aldermen Tonya Allen and Roger Martinez left that meeting early to attend Fayetteville High School’s State Championship ring presentation ceremony. However, at Thursday’s meeting Allen expressed concern that residents would be without full fire protection coverage without a fully staffed fire department. She said as new homes are being built, businesses are expanding and the population grows, the current staff will be impacted. She questioned why overtime pay couldn’t be applied to salaries. In the current budget, overtime pay within the department is considered a “budget buster,” and the overtime pay in the FY ‘20 budget equaled the salary for three employees.

Alderman Small said hiring fulltime employees includes paying benefits, which are ongoing expenditures.

Allen reminded the board that sooner or later, hiring more firemen will have to be addressed.

Although the fire department’s budget was decreased, the administrative office at city hall is hiring another full-time person; Pam Gentry is being promoted to administrative director and receiving an $11,000 raise; Planning & Codes Coordinator Kristie Gentry gets a $3,000 raise and the new building inspector will have $5,000 added to his salary. All city employees will receive a three percent cost of living increase and the city school system is being allocated three percent of $900,000 for raises.

“I have heartburn over that,” Alderman Hartman said in reference to the three percent increase to the school system.

Bryant said that it came to his attention 11 years ago that the school system was receiving a six percent increase each year whether they came before the board and requested those funds or not. “Now they have to come before the board every year,” the vice mayor added.

Bryant also insisted that City Administrator Scott Collins not come back to the board for additional administrative funding. “The Vice Mayor has made it very clear I am not to come back and ask for any more money,” Collins responded.

The current fiscal year budget ends June 30, 2021 and the new fiscal year begins July 1, 2031.