Seligman Police Department $39,000 over budget in 2013

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

City hopes to pass 1-cent sales tax to bolster department funding

SELIGMAN -- For the past few years, the Seligman Police Department has been overspending its budget, and the department was $39,000 in the red in 2013.

To make up for the lack of funding, the city has approved a 1-cent sales tax hike, which, if passed, would solely benefit the police department. The issue will be put to Seligman voters on April 8.

Ron Corn, Seligman alderman, said one reason for the department being so far behind is because of an issue outside of the city's control.

"Benton County in Arkansas just went wet, so we lost a lot of money there because people aren't coming here to buy liquor as much," he said.

Brian Nichols, city clerk, said overspending on the department by previous administrations is also contributing to the losses.

The Seligman Police Department is funded through the city's general fund, receiving 45 percent of the 1-cent sales tax and 68 percent of the fines and forfeits accrued through the courts. The city's sales tax, at 2.25 cents, is split up into four categories. There is a 1-cent general sales tax, a 1/2-cent streets sales tax, a 1/2-cent capital improvements sales tax and a 1/4-cent parks sales tax.

If approved in April, the 1-cent tax hike would bring the sales tax in the city to 3.25 cents, which is 1 cent below the limit at 4.25.

"The general fund covers the police department, courts, library and administrative costs, and we've had to spend more money, and it has depleted that account," Nichols said. "Salaries are the biggest chunk, and we even let two part-time police officers go to make up a bit."

The Police department has two full-time officers and two reserve officers, and the reserve officers are strictly volunteers.

Nichols said the city approved the 1-cent sales tax issue for voters last month, and most of what he has heard at city hall is positive.

"A few aldermen have heard some objections to it," he said. "But, I'm up here all the time where people pay their water bills, and I'm not hearing too many objections. People here like to have the police department because it's comforting to have those officers around all the time."

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