Mayor releases $30 million budget proposal

The first municipal budget overseen by Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth had its public debut this week with the Monday distribution of the preliminary 2014 spending plan.

Hollingsworth and department heads, including Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks and Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell, are keenly aware of the need to make the most of every allotted dollar in an uncertain economic climate.

“When we started scheduling the meetings with the different city departments, I was very adamant about the fact that we know what our revenue situation is and we have to budget to that number,” Hollingsworth said. “I am not going to insert anything into the budget related to inflation. I’m a realist in that regard. We are going to live within our means.”

Hollingsworth said she has been pleased with her preliminary budget meetings.

“I was very encouraged by each department and how they responded to the numbers,” Hollingsworth said. “Our budget priorities include $500,000 for the city’s restricted reserve account.”

The numbers for the preliminary 2014 city budget show that in total the city departments have assembled a budget with a total of $29,985,095 in revenue and $31,320,945 in expenses; and the 2014 mayor’s budget shows $30,094,204 in revenue and $29,588,971 in expenses.

The 2013 amended budget passed by the City Council showed $30,788,980 in revenue and $30,502,783 in expenses.

Hubanks hopes that his first budget as head of the PBPD will allow him and his officers to continue the trend of reduced crime in the city.

“I inherited a budget that I had nothing to do with,” Hubanks said. “With those resources we had a 16 percent decrease in crime. So you can automatically anticipate an even better situation in the coming year.

“We made outstanding progress under the constraints of the current budget that also included a department budget cut of $270,000 during the year made across all city departments in light of a projected shortfall in 2013 revenue,” Hubanks said. “With these tangible constraints we made real progress in both the actual and perceived crime problem in the city.”

Hubanks said he is looking forward to continuing to improve the public safety climate in Pine Bluff.

“If I get even close to what I am asking for in this budget and it looks like I may, people can expect absolutely zero hiccups in service and to see crime continue to trend down,” Hubanks said. “We can meet any demand, no worries.”

The 2014 budget submitted by the PBPD totals $11,298,129; and the 2014 Mayor’s budget entry for the PBPD comes to $10,797,948.

The 2013 amended budget for the PBPD as passed by the City Council totalled $10,568,719.

Howell said his budget priority is maintaining staff levels.

“Staffing is always our top priority to ensure that we have adequate coverage for the city,” Howell said Friday. “We would love to see raises so that salaries stay in line with inflation but we also realize that during these economic times that is hard to do.”

Howell said training will also continue to be at the top of the department’s budgetary ladder.

“We have to do what we need to do to keep our members safe,” Howell said. “Training is always a priority for us so that our firefighters stay current with their certification.”

The 2014 budget submitted by PBFES totals $7,476,706; and the 2014 Mayor’s budget entry for the PBFES totals $7,068,435.

The 2013 amended budget for the PBFES as passed by the City Council totalled $6,982,509.