Cherokee Village lifts two-year hiring freeze - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Cherokee Village lifts two-year hiring freeze

CHEROKEE VILLAGE, AR (KAIT) – The City of Cherokee Village has shown encouraging signs of an economic recovery of its own.

At its last meeting, the Cherokee Village City Council voted to lift a hiring freeze that was put in place two years ago.

"It's been tough," Mayor Lloyd Hefley said. "I hope we'll not ever have to do that again."

Cherokee Village may be free to post ‘help wanted' signs again, but it's still recovering from a major financial hit.

"We're hoping everything goes back up now for the next few years, not the other way," Hefley says.

In 2010, the city began seeing dramatic drops in funding that were provided by the Suburban Improvement District, the firm that initially developed Cherokee Village.

"When the income went down for them, it went down for us also," Hefley says.

The mayor and the city council decided to freeze hiring at that time to create some savings. They also asked people to approve a one-cent sales tax and to raise the local property tax rate to five mils so that the city could gain some additional revenue to fill the large budget shortfall.

"The funds are not going down anymore," Hefley says. "They've started to come up again, so we're still in recovery, still got a ways to go yet."

The city council has since built reserve funds into its budget. The amount of savings so far has prompted the city to start hiring once again, which comes as good news for police.

"We're ready to post an ad in the paper and start looking for an investigator," said Chief Rickey Crook with the Cherokee Village Police Department.

The police department has been unable to hire a new investigator for the past three years. The previous one left just before the hiring freeze took effect.

"The sergeant and I, and also the patrol officers, have been sharing the investigative duties, and it's more than we can handle with daily activity and taking reports," Chief Crook said. "It's hard for us to follow up on the cases and get closure to them."

The police chief hopes to post the investigator opening within the next few weeks. In addition to the opening at the police department, the city would like to hire another firefighter soon.

Mayor Hefley says filling those two vacancies can help the city better maintain its services to residents, but there is still little room to expand.

"We have to watch our budget real close," he said. "It's still tight."

When the city council members voted to thaw the hiring freeze, they also decided to change the hiring process.

Anyone offered a part- or full-time position will now have to get approval from the city council before they're officially given the job. Part-time workers previously did not have to go through that hurdle.

Several council members say this policy change will allow them to maintain more control regarding who's placed on the city payroll.

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