It may be a first for City of Fayetteville budget writers: Of nearly $200 million in next fiscal year’s operating budget plan, there’s only a $3,000 difference between this fiscal year’s budget and the proposed FY18 plan. The property tax rate will have to be adjusted to compensate for a loss of revenue brought about by a decline in property values. City Manager Doug Hewett told Fayetteville City Council members the tax rate must be increased to 52.66 cents per hundred dollars of property valuation from 49.95 cents to achieve revenue neutrality. That means the tax for those whose property values went down because of revaluation will not go up.
Hewett briefed Council members in small groups encouraging them to ask questions while preparing them for virtually no growth in spending in the coming fiscal year, except for a small pay raise for the city’s 1,500 employees. Hewett said police and fire pay plans would include scheduled increases. The manager is proposing small increases in environmental service and stormwater fees but no tax increase.
Hewett describes his plan as a hold-the-line budget brought about by the countywide decline in residential property values. Some members were disappointed that the Fayetteville Area System of Transit’s proposal to launch limited Sunday bus service is being put on hold.
The manager plans to realign some departments of the government. In response to questions from some Council members on tight operations, Hewett said making progress is a matter of capacity and resources. Environmental services (trash collection) plus street maintenance and stormwater management would become a division of the Engineering and Infrastructure Department. The Permitting and Inspections Department would be consolidated into the Planning and Code Enforcement Department. “The objective is to achieve improved efficiency,” said Hewett.
And an aging workforce is taking its toll. Senior managers and experienced professionals are approaching retirement, Hewett noted. Deputy City Manager Kristoff Bauer said some older workers can’t always perform some of their duties as they once could. He hopes to encourage high school graduates to study the trades at Fayetteville Technical Community College.
Bauer has been talking with FTCC officials about attracting young people into vocational fields such as plumbing and mechanical engineering. “These trades provide a good wage,” Bauer said. He added that permitting inspectors are needed in these areas to improve the city’s ability to meet the needs of the business community promptly.
Hewett said he hopes to find other ways of stabilizing the city’s workforce. Turnover in the police department has been significantly reduced thanks in part to an improved pay plan. But Hewett noted that recruiting and employee retention in other departments such as environmental services, transit and information technology continue to be a challenge. Hewett could not say what the current turnover rates are. City Council and the administration will spend the next few weeks refining the FY18 budget plan, which must be adopted by July 1.