For the first time in the budget process, Fort Smith is going to have a long-term general fund equipment replacement plan.

Director of Finance Jennifer Walker presented the plan at the board of directors study session Tuesday, showing an outline of what the city anticipates needing in the next five years. Later in the budget process, though, Walker said she may give the directors a 10-year plan, if they determine that is better.

Walker said she asked all of the department heads for the anticipated needs for the next five years and went through the city’s vehicle fleet to determine what it might need.

“This is a living document, so we can make lots of changes to it, but I wanted to give us a starting point,” Walker said.

She told the directors she hopes to have a copy of the projected 2018 final budget to them by the end of the week, so there could be a more serious discussion about what will actually go onto next year’s plan.

“This is the beginning of the framework of the budget discussion,” Walker said, noting some of the needs aren’t yet funded and not everything will necessarily go onto the 2019 budget. Some of them are strictly for discussion purposes and to have a reminder of the need.

Walker said it was a, “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?” situation, where she could present financial documents first or the replacement plan first. Either way, she said the board needed to be aware of what the departments anticipate needing in the coming years.

At-large Director Tracy Pennartz asked if these items were separate from the budgets that typically come from the general fund or the plan was separate. Walker said what the board approves will already be in each department budget but wanted to show the assets to be replaced separately to “give a better idea of what will be needed.”

For example, if the parks department requested a mower on the replacement plan, it would be included in the department’s general fund budget, City Administrator Carl Geffken said. 

The plan includes three priority levels, with one being the highest, and estimated cost of each request through 2023.

Next year’s equipment requests include five priority one needs. Two are for the police department — vehicles and body cameras — and two are for transit department vehicles. IT server storage and upgrades are a priority one for each year.

All 2019 requests, no matter the priority, total an estimated $12.6 million. Starting in 2020, Fort Smith has a new city hall building listed as a top priority. It would be a $24 million project spread over five years. It is one of the projects that is not currently funded, but Walker wanted to make sure the directors were reminded of the need.

Most needs on the plan are various departmental vehicles for the police and fire departments.

“It’s a start of a long-term plan,” said Ward 1 Director Keith Lau. 

As the budget discussions continue, at the request of the directors, Walker said she will present the plan with different indicators. She will note what needs are funded through the general fund or other alternate means, what actually makes it onto the 2019 budget and list the priorities together.

The board believes having all of the priority one projects together will allow it to see the estimated cost to fund the biggest city equipment needs.

It will cost an estimated $47.8 million to fulfill all the requests currently on the plan.