NO BUDET CUTS, YET: Mayor Frank Scott Jr. says "no final decisions have been made" on cuts to Little Rock's 2019 budget after confusion surrounding funding being cut for summer youth programs. BRIAN CHILSON

A day after City Director Kathy Webb and other Children, Youth and Families Commission members raised concerns about the city cutting funding for 15 summer youth enrichment and recreation programs, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said his administration has made no cuts to the 2019 budget.

Webb, who is city director of Ward 3 and the Board of Directors liaison to the Children Youth and Families Commission, said in an interview that in a meeting on Thursday afternoon, Community Programs Director Dana Dossett told the commission 15 summer youth programs were going to be cut. Each program serves 30 children, so that would mean 450 children would lose access to the summer programs. The commission was also told “there was discussion” of potentially 150 slots being cut from the city’s summer youth employment programs.


“Needless to say, that was very troubling for more than one reason,” Webb said of the announcement. “First of all, it’s very troubling for the kids who rely on these programs, for the kids who rely on the jobs, and particularly with the summer programs, many of those kids rely on school meals. To suddenly be potentially in a situation where they wouldn’t be getting those meals, right when we’re in the middle of a Be Mighty Little Rock campaign, is very distressing.”

Beth Echols, chair of the Children Youth and Families Commission, sent an email to the Little Rock Board of Directors, Mayor Frank Scott and City Manager Bruce Moore, voicing opposition on behalf of the commission to the elimination of these programs and summer youth employment slots as well as “any reallocation of funds in the Community Programs budget to a new summer reading program which serves only 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders for a fee.”


In an interview Friday afternoon, Scott said there “may be some confusion with whomever shared that information [to the commission]” because his administration has not instituted any changes.

“Any time, in an era in which we’re focused on prioritizing public safety, with the issuance of Requests For Proposals for body cameras and other such priorities for the public safety of our city, some can prematurely think where budget cuts may come, so that’s maybe where the confusion came from,” Scott said. “But until I offer any budget amendments, no final decisions have been made.”


Scott referenced his state of the city speech and said the city is working with the Little Rock School District to create a summer reading program, but details for it “have not been finalized” and will be released “as soon as possible.”

The mayor said the city is “committed” to ensuring the city’s youth have summer programming activities, “whether it’s a reading program [or] a summer enrichment program, our youth are our priority, just like public safety.”

“At the end of the day, we inherited a budget and a city government that we’re looking at with financial expertise to make sure the budget reflects priorities, and that we’re chief stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Scott said. He said decisions on budget cuts are a “collaborative process” that he’ll work with the Board of Directors to decide.

“All my decisions will be guided by stewardship, public safety, overall quality of life and place for our city to make certain we are being fiscally responsible for our citizens,” Scott added.


Dossett said requests for proposals have not yet been sent to community organizations to apply to provide youth programs for the summer of 2019, but said the RFPs would “probably” be sent out “sometime next week.”

In response to Scott’s statement, Webb replied, “I would hope that that stands, because these are programs that are important to the city, they’re important to kids and families, and while my colleagues and I understand that we’ll have to make cuts in some places, this would not be a place I’d choose to make cuts.”