The Fayetteville City Council on Thursday held the first of three scheduled budget work sessions. The meeting focused on city salaries and an update on American Rescue Plan Act funding.
The council must finalize the city budget by June 30. The fiscal 2022-23 budget year begins July 1.
City Manager Doug Hewett has proposed a budget with no significant increases in taxes or fees. The total budget is $248.25 million, which represents a 3.3% increase, city officials said.
The tax rate would remain at 49.95 cents per $100 property valuation.
The city is struggling to hire new people in a highly competitive job market, said Mark Holcombe with Evergreen Solutions. The company was hired to conduct a salary survey for the city. The City Council talked about an allocation of $6 million to make salaries more competitive.
“You are trailing the market but not by much,’’ Holcombe said.
The council also talked about paying people $15 an hour, including seasonal and temporary employees. That includes eight positions with Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks & Recreation.
“A lot of what we are talking about tonight is investing in our employees,’’ said Jerry Clipp, the human resources development director for the city.
Mayor Mitch Colvin said it is important that all city employees make at least $15 an hour.
Councilman Chris Davis concurred.
“The labor market is incredibly tough. It means a lot that we remain employee of choice,’’ Hewett said.
The city plans to leverage its ARPA money to fill in the gap on capital projects as well as take care of some community needs.
“We’re talking about workforce development, which is traditionally not a city function per se, but we are going to have to find partners to help us like the child care assistance grants,’’ Hewett said. “We don’t do the childcare, but under the ARPA rules, we believe we can go out and work with children’s centers that help them provide better programming by helping them with their staffing.’’
Hewett said the city has six years to expense the money.
Hewett said he hopes the early briefing on the budget pays dividends.
“We look forward to guidance from council as we prepare the budget for public hearing on June 13,’’ he said.
The next meeting will cover capital and transportation projects.
“We put that together in January and February, and so we have those projects and will go back over them with council to show them how we use the federal funding (ARPA) to cover those projects,’’ Hewett said.
The next budget work session is scheduled for 5 p.m. on June 2.
Hewett said,“You have done the heavy lifting, you’ve done that. … We thought we captured exactly what you wanted. Now that we have it, we have to come up with details.’’
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at email@example.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.