Things got somewhat intense at Tuesday night’s Helena-West Helena City Council session as Mayor Arnell Willis and the council began to discuss the current financial stresses that will carry over into next month.

 



Things got somewhat intense at Tuesday night’s Helena-West Helena City Council session as Mayor Arnell Willis and the council began to discuss the current financial stresses that will carry over into next month.



City Treasurer Patrick Roberson broke down the current deficit for the city of Helena-West Helena saying, “It looks like it’s going to be tighter, budget wise, this month, even after a payment of $180,000 was made to the IRS last Tuesday.” 



Mayor Willis asked the council for any ideas as to how to bring in more revenue explaining that more cuts will have to be made.



“We can’t keep making cuts, or taking money from other entities of the city without having a way to put it back,” stated Willis. 



Council member Joe St. Columbia stressed that he didn’t want anything being taken away from the H-WH police or fire departments stating, “They need all the help they can get.” 



Willis announced four key points that will be pursued including an across-the- board 10 percent pay cut for all employees and elected officials, a $10 increase to the residential garbage fee over the course of 2 years, further layoffs, which will not affect the fire and police departments, and borrowing $350,000 from the water department (not specified) in order to pay the current IRS debt and the $100,000 workman comp for this year.



City Clerk, Sandi Ramsey stated, “Our biggest revenue is our sales tax.  This month our sales tax totaled $309,000 compared to the $420,000 that we are accustomed to.” 



She went on to explain to the council that they might have to start looking at withdrawing from people’s retirement through Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System.



Jay Hollowell asked whether or not the council should consider looking at a four-day workweek situation instead of taking money from the retirement funds. 



“We are going to have come up with some revenue, our people are strapped, and they can't give much more,” he said.  “If we cut back on the employees hours to four days a week, could they not be compensated for that last day by unemployment?”



Meanwhile, the council addressed the issue of how to put the money back into the water department account, as to which Etherly replied, “Let's take the $25,000 off of your salary Mayor that you’re over paying yourself.  That could pay for some of it.”