The City of Van Buren and the local chamber of commerce will join forces to contract with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for a community economic assessment.

Aldermen voted 6-0 Monday night at the monthly council meeting to split the $5,000 with the chamber.

"This is something we have been wanting to do for a long time," Mayor Bob Freeman said. "It is a step we can now take in light of the chamber’s recent highly successful membership event."

The chamber has long realized a strategic plan and supporting community assessment is necessary for new business development, according to Jackie Krutsch, chamber director.

Krutsch said the assessment by UALR’s Institute for Economic Advancement will include a both a community economic development assessment and inventory. The IEA staff also will conduct a training session for designated community members in the effective use of the report and findings.

Also Monday, the council approved a 2014 budget with $12,436,350 in revenue and $12,071,299 in expenses. The budget includes a 1.5 percent cost of living increase for all city employees.

The council approved cost of living increases for the mayor, city clerk and city attorney, amending the mayor’s salary to $63,489.71; the city clerk’s salary to $46,971.68; and the city attorney’s salary to $12,500. Additionally, the county elected to provide $27,551.90 to pay for the city’s portion of the district court judge’s salary.

All salary changes will take effect Jan. 1.

The council amended an ordinance preventing all commercial vehicles, including school and church buses, from prolonged parking on residential streets, with the exception of the normal course of deliveries or special operations.