Arkansas City Commissioners met in a work session Friday to review the 2020 budget for external agencies.

Of the 15 agencies currently funded by the city, only five have requested an increase.

The Cherokee Strip Museum would see an increase of $25,000 from last year’s budget of $50,000. The Ark City Public Library budget would increase by $2.300 for a total of $373,900. The Chamber of Commerce would receive a $5,000 increase from the $10,000 received in 2019.

Two additional agencies have also requested funds for 2020 and are included in the proposed budget. Spring Hill Golf Course has requested $6,000 and the Beautification Advisory Board would receive $5,000.

If approved, the total budget for external agencies will total $656,795, an increase of $44,050 from last year.

Commissioner Kanyon Gingher said she was pleased with the budget, and the fact that City Manager Nick Hernandez had been able to grant each agency the full requested amount.

“You haven’t had to make any cuts — you got everything in and it all works,” she said. “We have the money to do it, let’s try it.”

Commissioner Duane Oestmann said he was not in agreement with several items on the proposed budget. He said he did not support giving a $5,000 increase to the Chamber.

“I think they can partner with Cowley First, whether they want to or not,” he said. “They’re both doing the same thing.”

Mayor Jay Warren said he would rather leave the chamber as it is, grant the full budget request and take a detailed look at the outcome next year.

Oestmann also took exception to the funding request from Spring Hill Golf Course.

“I’d like to take the $6,000 out and let them come approach us, tell us what they need.” he said.

Public Information Officer Andrew Lawson said since the golf course was owned by the city, other options might be available. He said the city could appropriate money from the Transient Guest fund. Lawson said the fund is intended to assist with the operation, maintenance and development of any city facility connected with conventions or tourism.

“It could be taken out of that fund and then it would not have to come out of the general fund,” Lawson said.

Oestmann said he was fine with most of the proposed budget, but he did not agree with a budget of $75,000 for the Cherokee Strip Museum.

“I’m fine with the $75,000, but I’d like to split it up, $40,000 for the strip and that would make $35,000 for Etzanoa,” he said.

Oestman said he would rather give the funds directly to the Etzanoa Conservancy.

Ginger said she did not agree and said a split between the two organizations was not necessary.

“The Cherokee Strip is a solid entity — the Etzanoa board uses the exact same director,” she said. “We need to leave it at the $75,000 that was requested for the museum and let them use part of that to do what they need to do.”

Gingher said the proposed 2020 budget marks the first time the city has been able to meet the funding requests for all agencies without having to make any cuts.

“We’ve been able to buy ambulances, we’ve got fire trucks and police vehicles,” she said. “Nick has been able to get everything in the budget and still has reserves left over.”

Three of the four commissioners in attendance gave their support to the proposed budget.

Hernandez said he would also like to see commissioners compensated for their services. He said he has tried for more than four years to gain the commission’s approval, but the proposal has been rejected each time.

“Honestly, I think it’s time, bring it back to start on Jan 1,” he said. “The amount of money you spend for traveling and the time you give up, I’m going to put that in there.”

Hernandez said a national survey lists the average compensation as $250 for commissioners and $300 for the mayor.

“It works out to about $12,000 per year,” he said. “It would be my recommendation to do that.”

The City Commission will hold a public hearing of the 2020 budget at 5:30 p.m. in the commission room at city hall on Tuesday.

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