When talking about the state of the city in Holiday Island, it is important to remember that in Holiday Island, the city has its specific responsibilities, and the Suburban Improvement District has other specific responsibilities. And while the state of the city cannot be properly and completely stated by addressing only one of the two entities, my focus will be on what the city has accomplished and what the city government has planned for 2024.
While the Holiday Island city budget pales in comparison to that of other cities our size and even HISID, we do as much as we can without adding any new taxes. In that regard, our strategy continues to be to not impose any new taxes unless it is to assume some infrastructure responsibility currently being handled by HISID. The city funds fall into two main categories of the General Fund and the Street Fund.
These are the results from 2023:
General fund revenue was within 1% of budget. Street fund revenue exceeded budget because the Stateline Drive and Hawk Drive paving projects we did in 2022 came in under the estimate so we received a refund from the State. General Fund and Street Fund spending both came in under budget.
The city has been holding back on spending street fund money in order to be able to cover the city portion of any project for which we would be awarded a grant like in 2022. Unfortunately, even though we have applied for additional grants, there is no predictability as to when another one will be awarded. The street fund currently has enough money to undertake a paving project and maintain a reserve for grant programs. The city and HISID are in the process of determining how to best apply those funds.
In 2023, the city finalized a contract with Carroll County to provide for two deputies patrolling our community. As part of that agreement, the city was to provide a patrol vehicle for the 2nd deputy. The city did provide the vehicle however due to the difficulty that the County is having in recruiting and retaining deputies we have had only one deputy patrolling. The County is only billing us for the one deputy which accounts for a significant portion of the under-spending in the general fund for the year. Addressing the 2nd deputy is a priority for 2024.
For 2024, the city will be providing approximately $48,000 to the Fire Department to finance upgrading their radios.
The city finalized a District Court agreement with Eureka Springs, Carroll County, and the District Judge that allows Holiday Island to issue citations for code violations. Plus, the city has engaged Clint Scheel as prosecuting attorney. And even though only a couple of citations were actually issued in 2023, the threat of having to appear in court and probably pay a fine has given our Code Enforcement Officer the leverage he needed to obtain compliance. As such, three highly distressed properties have been cleaned up and several more minor issues have been addressed. It is also important to note that issuing citations is not our priority. Solving problems is. Many problems are resolved by simply talking to the people or issuing a violation notification. Citations are a last resort. There is a significant backlog of properties to address in 2024.
2023 was spent exploring what may be possible for the city to do relative to animal (dog) control. Which is an area of concern to many residents. At the time of this writing, the city has an ordinance drafted and a workshop scheduled for February 7th. The 2024 budget provides for a part time animal control officer. The plan is to have something in place in the 2nd quarter.
Planning and Zoning:
In 2023, the City Council voted to replace themselves as the Planning Commission Board with volunteers from the community. The transition to the new commission board has been seamless and we appreciate their commitment to the organized growth of the city.
The most significant action taken by the Planning Commission and City Council was the passage of an ordinance regulating short term rentals. The ordinance allows the city to monitor the activity while not restricting the benefits that short term rentals bring to the community. Activity in 2024 will center around getting the conditional use permits issued to the property owners using their property as a short term rental.
The need for and benefits of requiring a business license to conduct business in Holiday Island was explored in 2023 and an ordinance will have the final reading at the February City Council meeting. The ordinance states the reasons for the ordinance and can be viewed on the city website.
City Hall and Staff:
As everyone knows, in September, the city moved into new office space at 5 Forest Park Drive. The new space was required due to the increase in activity primarily in the areas of Planning and Zoning and the Building Inspector. In addition, it allows for our office administrator to interact with the public without interrupting other business activity.
The addition of a part time office administrator allows for the city to have regular office hours which greatly benefits the public.
A third benefit of the new location is that the city hall is now adjacent to the sheriff substation.
In summary, even though some things may seem slow in coming, we are doing what we set out to do to move the city forward. I am proud of where we are as a city and so very appreciative of all the volunteer hours put in by our council members and the efforts of our small but dedicated staff.
Mayor, Holiday Island