LITTLE ROCK, Ark – A city board vote to change Little Rock’s 2019 budget failed by a slim margin Tuesday night.
Little Rock’s Board of Directors voted 5-4 against the proposed changes after a three-hour meeting.
The proposed changes are part of balancing a $7 million deficit, which included re-purposing two city golf courses, cutting more than 40 city positions and limiting operations at the city Zoo.
“We have to cut this budget,” Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said to the board after the vote failed.
“We’ll come back before the board,” Scott said vowing to bring this up for a vote again.
City Director Ken Richardson did not cast a “yes” or “no” vote but rather simply voted as “present,” which he defended in an interview after the meeting.
“Would I have change my vote? No, I mean I didn’t hear my questions answered,” Richardson says.
“I think I have a number of questions that I think it’s going to take more than three hours to have answered. We have to have some clarity.”
Discussions certainly sparked passion at Tuesday’s meeting, and at times, discussions got testy.
Questions flooded the room about the city’s golf courses, overtime pay at the police and fire departments and what happens to the golf course costs if they are in fact re-purposed.
While another vote on the proposed cuts is expected in two weeks, Mayor Scott voiced his criticism of the board for asking certain questions about the 2019 budget now, which he said he believes should have been asked when the budget was passed in the fall of 2018.
Scott issued a plea to the board for future budget meetings, looking ahead to next year.
“Please, when we do prepare a 2020 budget, please have the same questions because all these questions you have today you did not have in November and December of 2018.”
Mayor Frank Scott, Jr.’s released a statement on Tuesday’s budget amendment vote:
“Our City’s budget must be amended to ensure our financial integrity as well as ensure those elected
remain good stewards of taxpayer dollars. I am disappointed that tonight our City Board of Directors
voted against right-sizing the 2019 budget that it passed in 2018, which has led to a $7 million shortfall
and use of $5 million in one-time funds for reoccurring expenditures.
Tonight’s vote was not in the best interest of the people of Little Rock.
By voting down the budget amendment, we prolong our fiscal issues and risk a lower bond rating, among other financial repercussions. More importantly, by failing to act, we are keeping City employees and their families in limbo. Delaying a decision is not fair to our employees, and it’s not fair to our residents. I will continue to choose people over politics as we navigate these tough issues.
No one likes budget cuts. However, we were elected to make the hard decisions to make certain Little
Rock reaches its full potential. We can get there if we work together. I look forward to working with the
Board of Directors to get this amendment passed so that we can position Little Rock for a better future.”