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Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. provides first glimpse at 2020 city budget

The mayor's plan estimates a $4.6M surplus, thanks in part to recent budget cuts.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Mayor Frank Scott Junior has said he wants to make big changes in Little Rock. He started part of that process Tuesday evening, September 10, by making his first remarks about the 2020 budget.

Scott and the city’s finance director, Sara Lenehan, presented an overview of their budget during the weekly Board of Directors meeting. It projects an increase in revenue and a decrease in spending compared to 2018, resulting in a $4,590,000 surplus.

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“We want to make certain, number one, that we remain fiscally conservative,” he said, “but also understand the aspirational goals that we want to achieve.”

Scott said broadly during an interview earlier in the day that his goals are the same as many mayors: improving public safety, quality of life, education, and infrastructure. He hopes to have a finished budget passed by November.

“We want to make certain,” he explained, “that every board of director has a thorough understanding of the budgeting process and is able to ask as many questions as possible, but also have a greater involvement and engagement from our city and our residents.”

Scott said he does not anticipate making any big cuts next year. The board approved a budget adjustment in June to eliminate 44 jobs and close the golf courses at War Memorial Park and Hindman Park. Lenehan said the golf course closures would save the city $642,000 next year. Scott said the changes have had the result he hoped for.

“Yes, I think we understand that the previous administration made some decisions that we had to address when I first got into office,” he stated. “And so, the budget amendment where we cut $2.1M for that period of time—$5M over an annualized standpoint—put us on a firmer financial standpoint—footing.”

The city also got an influx of cash from the record number of visitors who came for conventions this summer, but Scott said he is not counting on spending that money just yet.

“Many times, a lot of those dollars don’t come until two months after the fact,” he explained, noting the lag in sales tax collections, “so we’ll be paying attention to those numbers going forward.”

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In the past, Scott has said he wants to gradually add around 100 police officers to the Little Rock Police Department and outfit all LRPD patrol officers with body cameras. He did not say if those outlays will be included in his budget proposal, and if so, how strongly he will insist upon them.

The city will hold a series of public meetings in various wards to give more people an understanding of what the budget will entail. The first will be Monday, September 30 at the Centre at University Park.