Town makes large cut to police department to balance budge

HARDY, AR (KAIT) - The Hardy City Council approved their 2018 budget at a meeting Tuesday night, but not before several departments gave up thousands of dollars.

The budget going into that council meeting was $105,000 in the red.

The projected revenue for 2018 was set at $531,000, with the expenses at $637,000.

The city councils goal was to make enough cuts to balance the budget.

At the end of the nearly 4-hour meeting, that goal was met. That came after a lot of heated discussion and several department heads making sacrifices.

The largest concern was the police department budget, which was $260,000 at the beginning of the meeting.

Chief Tamora Taylor was asking for another full-time officer to be added to the department, which would have put them at 3 full-time employees, including her.

Since the police department made up such a large portion of the entire budget, the council asked considered the possibility of abolishing the police department and having the Sharp County Sheriff's Department take over the town's law enforcement.

That would have cost the city an estimated $152,210 for two deputies to cover the city 16 hours a day and a part-time deputy to cover their holidays and time off.

The city would then fall under the regular deputy on duty in the county during the overnight hours, rather than having a dedicated deputy.

During the meeting, Taylor agreed she would make all cuts necessary to get her budget to no more than $155,000.

She has some major concerns about what that means for the city's patrol coverage, though.

"Ultimately we would only be able to work two 8-hour shifts a day which is going to leave the night shift completely uncovered short of just being called out," Taylor said after the meeting. "I'm really not even sure if they're going to get the county to cover some of those calls. It's a safety aspect on my part as far as the service to the community and that's a big deal with me."

Chief Taylor is supposed to sit down with the mayor on Wednesday to make the specific adjustments to her budget, which she expects to include a large salary cut for her.

She is not the only employee who took a cut, though.

Fire Chief Jason Griffin volunteered to give up $1,200 from his salary, as well as $500 from uniforms and $300 in training expenses that were budgeted for 2018.

The city's Recorder/Treasurer Greg Bess also cut his requested salary from $1,500 each month to $1,000, saving the city $5,000 that was needed to pay their obligation to the Sharp County Regional Airport.

"Everyone gave up something," Hardy Mayor Jason Jackson said. "I mean, that was a good thing to see and everyone standing up there saying, 'I'll give up this and I'll give up this,' that's after 3 weeks of them giving up a lot."

Obviously, not every entity will be getting the amount of money they requested.

The Sharp County Library in Hardy asked the city for $11,400. They are in the budget to get $3,000.

Mayor Jackson said this will be the first time in 10 years that the city's budget has not been in deficit.

He knows these were tough decisions for the council to make, but is glad they came to an agreement.

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