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Branson Mayor Larry Milton delivering the 2023 State of the City address.

Calling the city a place which is both “business-friendly and family-friendly,” Branson Mayor Larry Milton delivered the 2023 Branson State of the City address from the council chambers inside Branson City Hall on Tuesday, March 14.

Milton’s speech not only recapped the city’s 2022 record tourism numbers, but also gave a vision of what he sees for the future of the city in 2023. He said Branson is “vibrant and thriving” rooted from a deep respect for “faith, family, flag, and freedom.”

“We proudly back our police and fire departments, salute our veterans, cherish our freedoms, and champion the values that have made our city a top travel destination for millions over multiple decades,” Milton said. “Our city government has worked hard to reflect and protect these values – while also fostering and capitalizing on the incredible benefit and impact of tourism on our local business community. That’s why our city government is actively advocating for new and improved processes and instituting positive leadership – to not only make our city the best place to live, work, and play, but to also officially make Branson the best place in the region to do business.”

The mayor spoke about the challenges he said the city faced in 2022 including inflation, growth causing higher demand for city services, and the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Last year, we saw changes in how families vacation, the ability of local businesses to fill jobs, increased inflation, and slowed development due to supply shortages of both labor and materials,” Milton said. “Despite these challenges, the people of Branson did what we do best. We got creative and worked together to overcome these issues.”

Milton then shared tourism tax and sales tax revenues for the city in 2022, which showed a 5% increase from 2021. According to his information, the city’s hotels and motels were up 5.8%, theaters up 7%, restaurants & concessions up 7.5%, and nightly rentals were up 19%.

The mayor spoke of what he felt were successes in decision making by the Board of Aldermen, focusing on the purchase of the White House Theater, which he said saved the taxpayers of Branson $7 million and will bring a new police station into operation years earlier than previously planned when the facility was to be built on property next to Tanger Outlet Mall.

“This new station will give our law enforcement the space they need to more adequately do their jobs and help us retain the great officers we currently have and attract new officers to come work in Branson,” Milton said.

Milton said the city worked to make the permitting and inspection process easier for residents and businesses who want to develop new attractions and businesses for the city.

“It is now easier than ever to navigate the permitting process to either grow or start your own business here in Branson,” Milton said. “And if you run into an issue, our city’s newly hired Customer Service Liaison is uniquely positioned to help businesses and residents alike navigate the process through development or improvement projects.”

Milton concluded his recap of 2022 by talking about the changes in city leadership, stating the new hires have “accelerated” the city’s direction, with a focus on “sound fiscal management, positive leadership, and strategic direction setting.”

The mayor then began to discuss the city’s 2023 budget, saying city leadership was focusing on the feedback from city employees and directors about the needs of each city department.

He said city staff will focus on four key questions related to the spending of city funds:

What is the city’s overall mission, role, and priorities?

What will this cost - and is it an efficient use of taxpayer dollars?

Why does the city need to do it?

Is this what our citizens want us to do?

“We believe the 2023 Budget reflects exactly that,” Milton said.

The mayor outlined steps he said will be taken in 2023: the start of construction on Fire Station No. 4 and the renovation of the White House Theater for the police department; upgrades to the Branson RecPlex including expanding the gym and putting synthetic turf on athletic fields; an update on outdated building codes; a revitalized permitting, inspection, and development process; and upgrading and maintaining critical infrastructure.

Milton also specifically mentioned the construction to protect the Compton Wastewater Treatment Plant from flooding, which would risk clean water and sewer services to the city.

The mayor also said the city leadership wants to make a mental change in the way staff focuses on accomplishing the city’s needs.

“2023 is the year our city government will begin moving at the speed of business rather than at the speed of government,” Milton said.

The mayor ended the speech by saying the future of the city was “brighter and clearer” than ever, and the state of the city was strong.

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