LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The City of Little Rock began their budgetary process Tuesday following a year hit hard by COVID-19. The Board of Directors focused on 2021 revenue projections in tonight’s meeting, and compared this year’s forecast to both 2020 and 2019. 

Like many other cities across the nation, Little Rock saw a dip in revenue for 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic led to citywide closures and quarantines, which meant certain key streams of revenue had dried up. But directors are hopeful for a growth-filled 2021, and will work to craft a budget to match. 

With less than 2 months left in 2020, the City of Little Rock Board of Directors is shifting their attention to next year and the 2021 budget. “We’ve had to navigate uncharted waters,” Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. said. He says city leaders have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a series of cuts and amendments of the original 2020 budget. With today’s discussion on revenue, they hope 2021 can see some growth after a year of loss. “That will dictate what we’re able to commit to from a central services standpoint,” Scott said, “as well as new goals and initiatives.” 

The key takeaway from the half-hour discussion was that city revenue took a major hit during COVID closures and precautions, with the general fund coming in around $6 million short of last year’s budget. “In comparison to 2019,” Scott explained, “it’s about 4% below.” Funds from things like the zoo and fitness center we’re hardest hit. “When you compare to our 2019 actual results,” said Sara Lenehan, Finance Director for the City of Little Rock, “we’re still about 36% below.” Mixed drink license revenue also saw a major decline, with a 36% dip compared to pre-COVID numbers. And numbers show the county fared better than the city when it came to sales tax, with Little Rock businesses seeing a sharper decline during COVID than surrounding cities. 

But the Board of Directors is hopeful for this coming year, with most revenue sources projecting a small percentage of growth compared to 2020. Even recreational entry fees are projected to be close to where they were last year. Lenehan summer it up best: “Each fund is decreasing a little bit from where it was pre-COVID, but we are beginning to see a gradual recovery.”

November 17th, the board will cover 2021 budget expenditures, and they hope to have a complete budget proposal by November 24th.

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