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story.lead_photo.caption Springdale city hall.

SPRINGDALE -- The City Council on Tuesday approved 7-1 a $56 million operating budget for 2021 for Springdale.

Mayor Doug Sprouse on Dec. 1 introduced the budget proposal. The now-approved budget remained little changed from what he proposed.

Council Member Amelia Williams, who attended the meeting via an online platform, asked before the vote to drop 10 unfilled positions in the budget for the public library, which would save the city about $200,000.

None of the other council members seconded her amendment, however.

The library has served the public through appointment times, curbside pickup and online services since Sprouse closed city buildings in March when the first case of covid-19 was reported in Washington County.

Williams had asked the library to open at 60% capacity or lose funding for the unfilled positions.

Sprouse said the unfilled positions accounted for the library's roughly $200,000 savings this year. The positions remain in the 2021 budget because the staff will be needed when the library fully reopens, he said.

Kenny Arredondo-Loyola, elected to the Washington County Quorum Court in November, asked to speak after the council's vote. He entered the City Council chambers too late to provide public comment on the budget, but Sprouse let him ask questions.

Arredondo-Loyola also questioned the library's status. Sprouse told him the library would maintain its current status until officials deem it safe for the facility to fully reopen.

Also, Arredondo-Loyola asked how many Springdale students had contracted covid-19 and had died in the school district. Sprouse said that had no bearing on the city budget.

Arredondo-Loyola left the room when asked to do so by a bailiff and was not available for comment after the meeting. He was invited to meet with Sprouse later this week.

The council approved salary raises for elected officials as part of the budget. Yearly compensation will include $136,610 for the mayor, $125,153 for the city attorney, $95,704 for the city clerk, $11,070 for council members and $4,800 for Planning Commission members.

The council also amended the budget before it passed to reflect a $113,000 decrease in the amount Washington County charges Springdale to house prisoners in the county jail.

Police Chief Mike Peters noted an email Tuesday morning from County Judge Joseph Wood asking for $77,401 for 2021. Springdale had included $190,000 in the budget, based on what the county charged for 2020.

Peters said the jail costs are lower because the county has limited the number of inmates in the jail during the pandemic.

Council Member Mike Overton voiced the only dissent in approving the budget. He noted after the meeting that in his 20-plus years on the council, he has voted only twice in favor of various mayors' proposed budgets. Overton said he thinks the city spends too much money.

Sprouse spoke about the council approving the budget later than usual this year.

He attributed the lateness to the pandemic, the annexation of Bethel Heights, merging the capital improvements fund with the operating budget and the financial services staff moving to new offices the week after Thanksgiving.

"I know it took us a couple of weeks longer than usual to get the budget passed," said Council Member Mike Lawson. "I appreciate everybody's patience for allowing us to take our time to understand it."

State law requires the mayor to present a proposed budget for the next year by Dec. 1, said Wyman Morgan, the city's director of administration and finance. The law says the council must adopt a budget by Feb. 1.

If a budget hadn't been adopted by Jan. 1, the council would have had to grant a special appropriation allowing the city to spend money until a budget was approved.

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