© 2024 KASU
Your Connection to Music, News, Arts and Views for 65 Years
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Here is where you can find news about Jonesboro, Craighead County, and Arkansas at large, as well as news for Missouri and Tennessee.[ Read our Mission Statement ]

Jonesboro Council passes 2024 Budget, One councilman voted no

Jonesboro City Council members discussing the budget on Jan. 2, 2024.
Rebecca Robinson
Jonesboro City Council members discussing the budget on Jan. 2, 2024.

The proposed 2024 budget was passed in the Jonesboro City Council meeting on Tuesday night with one council member voting in opposition.

The Finance and Administration Committee passed the budget unanimously on December 28th and was set for final approval from the City Council. Councilman LJ Bryant, Ward 5, Position 1, voted “No” due to spending concerns.

Mayor Harold Copenhaver in his initial statements about the budget said: “We’re confident that this is the best budget for the city in 2024. I took office with the pledge to keep expenses in check and to ensure fundamentals and other quality-of-life endeavors. I am confident this budget considers all that.”

The budget included a 12.9% increase in spending from 2023, a majority of the spending mostly on personnel. Bryant was concerned about spending more on the administration side of things.

“I feel like, at least in my businesses, I’m trying to consolidate positions instead of adding positions,” Bryant said. “In government, it seems that we never delete positions, we just continue to add.”

The budget also proposed a four-percent Cost of Living Adjustment for full-time non-uniformed employees in hopes of retaining and gaining staff. That as well as the two-percent traditional increase would be a six-percent pay raise for those employees.

Raises have already been made for uniformed positions. The police department was given a raise in the range of 19 percent back in September and the Fire Department in the range of 7 percent a few weeks ago.

A community member in the council chamber, Patti Lack, spoke in support of Bryant.

“You know, it’s funny because that’s exactly what people have talked to me about, the proposal of 13 new positions,” Lack said.

Lack noted understanding the need for certain positions like the E911 and animal service positions proposed but others did not seem necessary. Lack also mentioned the proposed communications position.

Councilman Dr. Anthony Coleman, Ward 6, Position 1 noted the topic of communications and asked the Mayor about the position.

“I haven't heard anything regarding communication and the need for those other positions really. I feel like my job was to look at it on a macro level, not trying to leave the nuts and bolts of administration,” Coleman said.

Copenhaver responded: “I have heard repetitiously from the council and the community that we need more communications.”

One of the reasons for the addition of a communications job was said to be because of the uptick in Freedom of Information Act requests. The mayor mentioned that FIOA has “basically taken my director’s time.”

Copenhaver opened the floor to Bill Campbell, the Jonesboro Director of Communications to go further in-depth with the need of the position.

“I’ve worked in five states as a journalist. There are no tighter states for FOIA laws in the south more strict than Arkansas. In Alabama you have one year to respond to a FOIA in Arkansas you have three days,” Campbell said. “It makes FOIA a top priority.”

Campbell also noted the responsibilities have “ramped up” throughout the eight years he's been in Jonesboro. Now meetings are recorded on video and streamed which requires extra work. He also noted that everything has to be combed through that’s posted to make sure words and meanings are not misconstrued and delivered the right way.

Campbell addressed statements Bryant had previously made concerning Artificial Intelligence. “We do use AI and everyone is invited to come look and see how we use AI.” He noted that with the use of AI people still have to go over and check the work done before using any of the work.

“You don’t just go ‘hey tell me this’ then post it and send it out in the world,” Campbell added.

Councilwoman Ann Williams, Ward 3, Position 1, noted the historic eclipse coming up in April. Jonesboro is one of the only places in the state to see total totality making the city a destination for viewers.

I think it’s gonna be important to be fully staffed as far as communication is concerned.” Williams said. “A lot of people will leave here after their visit, hopefully having a good opinion of Jonesboro.”

The budget includes more than $5 million for the parks system and $2 million for street and sidewalk improvements.

Despite some concerns, the 2024 budget was passed 11-1 with 1 not voted.

“We did have a lot of inquiries about the budgeting process and I agree that it’s very important that we continue to utilize our resources,” Copenhaver said.

New Business:

  • The ordinance to the city of Jonesboro to place various traffic signs at designated locations as determined by the traffic control sponsored by Engineering was moved to its second reading. 

  • The ordinance for the transfer of the location of private club permits also moved to its second reading.
A 2019 graduate of Sheridan High School, Robinson graduated from A-State with a degree in multimedia journalism in December 2023. In January 2021, while working toward her degree, she was named sports editor for The Herald, A-State’s student-run newspaper.