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Pine Bluff City Council approves 2024 budget despite tax measure defeats



Pine Bluff, Arkansas – The Pine Bluff City Council approved a substantial $63.2 million budget for 2024, despite recent setbacks in tax measures. This decision came nearly a week after Pine Bluff voters rejected two significant tax initiatives, yet the council displayed unity and foresight in navigating the city’s financial future.

Navigating Financial Challenges

The approved budget of $63,216,953 for 2024 showcases the council’s ability to manage resources efficiently, especially after the defeat of two critical tax measures. Pine Bluff had anticipated revenue of $49,870,800, which included contributions from the 2017 sales tax fund. This fund, originating from a five-eighths-cent tax backed by Go Forward Pine Bluff, was approved by voters in 2017 but is set to sunset on September 30, 2024, following its recent rejection. Additionally, a proposed three-eighths-cent tax, intended to support fire and police departments, was also voted down.

Despite these setbacks, the city’s financial outlook remains stable. Ward 1 Council Member Lloyd Holcomb Jr., who chaired the meeting in Mayor Shirley Washington’s absence, praised the collaborative effort in this budget cycle, noting the smooth process and positive outlook for 2024. The council’s effective planning is evident in their anticipation of over $70 million in total funds, including a projected balance and carryover from various funds. After accounting for reserves, the city expects to have about $63.5 million available, with a projected year-end balance of $249,515.

The budget intricacies include exclusions like interfund transfers and the health fund from restricted funds. The health fund, in particular, derives revenue from group insurance expenses in other city funds and employee payroll deductions.

Revenue Sources and Projections

A critical part of the budget is the forecasted income from various taxes and levies. The actual amount received from the city sales tax in 2023 was approximately $7.1 million, falling short of the adopted budget. However, the 2024 budget projects higher revenues from different sources, including city and county sales taxes, the five-eighths-cent tax, and the casino gaming tax.

Holcomb emphasized the council’s commitment to ensuring that all city departments are adequately financed, reflecting their dedication to keeping the city’s progress on track for the upcoming year.

Additional Financial Decisions

The meeting also addressed other key financial matters. City employees will receive a total of $509,859 in Christmas bonuses, a gesture enabled by a budget adjustment. Further, the council approved five budget adjustments for various departments, including Parks and Recreation, Police, Transit, and Fire and Emergency Services, to ensure sufficient funds for year-end and 2024 requirements.

Legislative Actions and Infrastructure Plans

In other city business, the council passed two ordinances unanimously. These included the closure of a section of Texas Street and the rezoning of part of Flipper Avenue. Additionally, the council resolved to assess delinquent taxes on certain homeowners for rectifying nuisances on their properties and expressed willingness to utilize federal aid for bridge replacements and state funding for road overlays.

The Pine Bluff City Council’s effective management of financial and legislative matters, particularly in light of recent tax measure defeats, demonstrates a proactive and collaborative approach to governance. This fiscal prudence and foresight are vital in ensuring the city’s continued growth and stability.

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