Walnut Ridge struggling with short funds

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT)- With rising costs of operating a city, Walnut Ridge is looking at ways to tighten its belt and save money.

At a recent city council meeting, Mayor Don House and the council took a hard look at the cities finances. There is a lot of year left and the costs are outweighing the income.

Fuel and insurance to a city is like death and taxes to a person. Both are pretty much unavoidable.Mayor House says they are watching every penny closely because not every department is a money maker.

"The Police Department and the street department are the two most expensive aspects of our city." House said but the city can't do away with either one.

Besides the Police Department another department brings in income to offset costs.

House, "Sewer and water has it's own on-going expenses but then it has a lot of income to help." But it can't support a city.

There are two primary sources of city income according to the mayor.

"We have some state turnback that comes back to us" House says, "But sales tax from both the county and the city are our main sources of revenue."

"I think every city is experiencing some tight budget due to the economy." House said. " Right now we have more expenses than income.

House says spending is down, so the sales tax revenue is down but House says he doesn't think this a permanent problem.

House, "We expect that to pick up in the Month of April and then through the summer months we'll have more sales tax going into the fall."

But in the meantime the belt has to be a little tighter.

House showed me one way the city is saving a little money to get it's drainage ditches cleaned and the brush picked up all around the town. Without having to pay for insurance or even a salary for that matter.

House, "We're using more inmate labor to assist with drainage and cleaning and brush and leaf pickup." The guys in stripes and orange were raking out a ditch and using chainsaws to cut small trees down.

The city is closely watching fuel costs. Every day trucks are out picking up limbs and brush from houses. That is going to change.

House, "Beginning the first of May we're only going to be doing it the first full week of the month. So there's cost savings measures like that where we have our vehicles out on the road less."

Another big source of savings may come from changing or monitoring phone usage.

House, "Telephone expenses can actually amount to several thousand dollars within a month or years time."

And don't plan on applying for a job with the city for a while.

House, "When it comes to full time work and laborers we have a total hiring freeze at this time."

This is only House's second year in office but he says this all has a familiar tone.

"Last year was my first experience, and we had to do some tightening up last year in the Springtime. It seems like it's worse this year because our fuel costs are up considerably more."

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