Little Rock talks 2013 budget with skeptical crowd

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - City officials held their first public meetings Monday night to discuss their yet-to-be-passed 2013 budget, an initial feedback wasn't entirely positive.

City Manager Bruce Moore hosted the two meetings at the Northwest LRPD substation and at the Dunbar Community Center to convince citizens the city is putting rising sales tax revenue to good use.

"We graduated 31 officers from the police academy on Friday," said Moore. "We have 25 more starting on Monday."

A little more than a dozen people looked over documents Monday night showing the city is budgeted to spend an extra 3.5 million dollars on police in 2013.

Revenue from the sales tax that went into effect this year, plus more than $8 million in re-allocation has given Little Rock some budget flexibility.

Still, Moore went over all 27 pages with an audience that mostly left unimpressed Monday night.

"This is a bunch of smoke and mirrors tonight," said Robert Webb, a longtime observer of Little Rock government.

Webb was one of several citizens wanting more community development programs added to a budget he calls too vague.

"How can you come out and talk about the budget and not give specifics?" asked Webb. "Spend 5 million on streets. What streets?"

Aging infrastructure is something the city will continue to address, through meetings like these, so long as people keep showing up.

"Citizen input is just really important," said Moore. "We've already made some changed since we first unveiled the budget mainly because of listening to comments that the board member was getting, the mayor was getting."

Two more meetings are going to be held this week at the Southwest Community Center and Roosevelt Thompson Library.