CHEROKEE VILLAGE, AR (KAIT) – The City of Cherokee Villagehas shown encouraging signs of an economic recovery of its own.
At its last meeting, the Cherokee Village City Council votedto lift a hiring freeze that was put in place two years ago.
"It's been tough," Mayor Lloyd Hefley said. "I hope we'llnot ever have to do that again."
Cherokee Village may be free to post 'help wanted' signsagain, but it's still recovering from a major financial hit.
"We're hoping everything goes back up now for the next fewyears, not the other way," Hefley says.
In 2010, the city began seeing dramatic drops in funding thatwere provided by the Suburban Improvement District, the firm that initiallydeveloped Cherokee Village.
"When the income went down for them, it went down for usalso," Hefley says.
The mayor and the city council decided to freeze hiring atthat time to create some savings. They also asked people to approve a one-centsales tax and to raise the local property tax rate to five mils so that thecity could gain some additional revenue to fill the large budget shortfall.
"The funds are not going down anymore," Hefley says. "They'vestarted to come up again, so we're still in recovery, still got a ways to goyet."
The city council has since built reserve funds into itsbudget. The amount of savings so far has prompted the city to start hiring onceagain, which comes as good news for police.
"We're ready to post an ad in the paper and start lookingfor an investigator," said Chief Rickey Crook with the Cherokee Village PoliceDepartment.
The police department has been unable to hire a newinvestigator for the past three years. The previous one left just before thehiring freeze took effect.
"The sergeant and I, and also the patrol officers, have beensharing the investigative duties, and it's more than we can handle with daily activityand taking reports," Chief Crook said. "It's hard for us to follow up on thecases and get closure to them."
The police chief hopes to post the investigator openingwithin 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 thecity better maintain its services to residents, but there is still little roomto expand.
"We have to watch our budget real close," he said. "It'sstill tight."
When the city council members voted to thaw the hiringfreeze, they also decided to change the hiring process.
Anyone offered a part- or full-time position will now haveto 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 allowthem to maintain more control regarding who's placed on the city payroll.