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PRAIRIE GROVE -- The city's 2021 budget includes money for a new part-time position to help with the animal pound, a 2% cost-of-living raise, two new police vehicles, new service truck for the water department, a new roof for the fire station and a new dog park at Muddy Fork Park.

Prairie Grove City Council approved the 2021 budget at its Dec. 21 meeting.

In a special meeting last week held through the Zoom video app, Council members approved purchasing the police vehicles and water service truck from Steve Landers Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, so the city could go ahead and order the vehicles. The money for these vehicles will come out of the 2021 budget.

The council on Dec. 29 approved two 2020 all-wheel-drive Dodge Durangos for $31,087 each for the police department from the state procurement bid and a 2021 3/4-ton Dodge Ram 2500 for $24,316 for the water department from the state procurement bid.

The 2021 general fund administration budget projects to receive $2,047,330 in revenue for administration and the police and fire departments, with $1.9 million budgeted for expenses.

This projected revenue includes $740,000 from the county 1% sales tax, $393,000 from property taxes, $292,000 from franchise taxes, $125,000 from building permits and licenses and $95,000 from turnback fees.

Expenses include $63,000 for legal expenses, $150,000 for police pension contributions, $240,000 for salaries and $60,000 for repairs and maintenance. In addition, expenses include $175,348 for police salaries (which will be reimbursed from the federal CARES Act fund) and transferring $584,652 to the police and fire sales tax account for salaries and benefits.

In a memo to council members about the budget, Larry Oelrich, director of administrative services and public works, said he expects revenue to continue to increase from local sales tax collections but was conservative and kept his projections near those for the 2020 budget.

He said he also expects the city's state turnback funds and county sales tax revenue to increase after the 2020 census is certified and populations are recalculated.

Budgets approved for other departments include:

• Library: $201,602 in revenue; $201,602 in expenses.

• Court: $169,190 in revenue; $135,676 in expenses.

• Parks: $335,790 in revenue; $303,750 in expenses.

• Sanitation: $602,905 in revenue; $595,754 in expenses.

• Street: $869,900 in revenue; $783,103 in expenses.

• Water: $3,209,400 in revenue; $3,204,026 in expenses.

The city's police and fire payroll account projects to receive about $1 million in revenue: $340,000 from a 0.5% sales tax dedicated for police and fire salaries and $740,000 as a transfer from the general fund.

In other business, the Council's agenda included an appeal of a decision made by Prairie Grove Planning Commission to deny a request to rezone 80 acres located at the corner of Bush Street and Ditmar Road from A-1 to R-1.5.

In turning down the request, members of the Planning Commission said they preferred the land be rezoned R-1 to fit in with other R-1 subdivisions in the area.

Dwight Bartholomew owns the land and submitted the rezoning request and appealed the Planning Commission's decision to the City Council. Bartholomew is in the process of selling the land to 7 Oaks Development, pending the rezoning.

The Council agreed with the Planning Commission but instead of rejecting the appeal, decided to pass an ordinance to go ahead and rezone the land to R-1, according to Mayor Sonny Hudson.

"If we had just rejected the appeal, they would not have been able to come back for 12 months," Hudson said. "Now, they can go back next month (to the Planning Commission) and ask for some variances and maybe get what they want."

Hudson said the developer is proposing lots that are more narrow than what is allowed in an R-1 zone but are longer to provide larger backyards.

Members of the Planning Commission have said they may be able to work with the developer on variances with an R-1 zone but not with the R-1.5 zone, Hudson said.

The council also approved an ordinance to waive competitive bidding for a new trash truck. The ordinance authorizes the mayor and city clerk to purchase a new 2021 Freightliner trash truck for $130,000 plus tax from Arkansas Municipal Equipment of Poyen. The price includes the trade-in value of a 2012 Freightliner with a bad engine.

The ordinance notes that competitive bidding would not be feasible at this time because an emergency exists and the truck needs to be replaced immediately.

In other action, the council approved changes to the personnel policy, based on recommendations from legislative auditors.

The changes will allow discretionary incentives for employee recognition, increase the maximum reimbursement for employee meals per day from $40 to $50 and allow paying employees for "on-call" time and paying employees for private communication equipment.

The personnel policy also was amended to note that promotions shall be approved by the mayor or his designee, not the City Council.

The current policy will expire Dec. 31, 2022.

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