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Quorum Court OKs $6.9M budget

After weeks of budget meetings, there was little discussion by justices of the peace on approving the Lonoke County 2014 budget. However, district 13 JP Matt Sanders cast the lone “no” vote saying the budget did not address “key issues.”

The approval was made at the Nov. 21 quorum court meeting.

County Judge Doug Erwin and Justices of the Peace Brent Canon, Henry Lang, Darrin Waymack, Tim Lemons, Lee Linville, Roger Lynch, Bill Ryker, Mike Dolan, Matt Sanders, Thomas Verkler and Larry Odom attended the meeting; Adam Sims and B.J. Weathers were absent.

During community comment, questions were raised by two residents about purchase of a fundraising banner by county assessor Jack McNally, and about funds that were collected in the assessor’s office in support of a non-government cause.

Responding to the questions, county clerk Larry Clarke said McNally has been asked to refund the county the funds used to purchase the banner. As yet, the money has not been repaid, he said.

Dolan introduced the proposed 2014 county budget. The high points of the budget are that the healthcare requirements have been met, and the county employees would be given a 3.5 percent cost-of-living increase in pay, he said.

“There just enough money to take this thing to go,” Dolan remarked.

Sander said he had voted against the budget in committee, and would vote against the approval.

“In my opinion, the budget does not address a few key issues that the county faces,” Sanders said. Those issues include an unbalanced compensation package, extremely low base salary, and short-term financial constraints, he said.

“We will get through next year, but our situation will grow worse. Because of that, I cannot endorse this budget,” Sanders said.

Responding earlier in the week to questions about the county revenue, treasurer Patti Weathers said that a detailed comparison between 2013 and 2014 revenues would be difficult. “Almost apples to oranges,” because of several changes to accounting requirements, she said.

However, a general overview does show revenue between the two years has “pretty much” remained unchanged. There has been some growth, though not significant

In the 2014 budget, law enforcement took the greatest amount with a total of about $3.4 million between the sheriff’s office and jail operations.

A brief overview of the elected offices, in order of amounts, shows totals that range from nearly $2 million for the sheriff’s office to $30 for constables.

County general fund 2014 appropriations:

Sheriff- $1,906,276.87

Jail- $1,521,163.24

Assessor- $493,461.84

County Clerk- $372,276.99

Collector- $313,480.70

Circuit Clerk- $204,855.03

Treasurer- $195,820.10

Election Commission- $155,153.73

Circuit Court I- $98,019.26

County Judge- $96,679.37

Quorum Court- $79,536.51

Coroner- $75,766.94

Circuit Court III- $55,191.23

Circuit Court II- $49,841.38

Constables- $30

An overview of a comparison of anticipated revenue between 2013 and 2014 shows $2.2 million and $2.8 million, respectively, in current personal and property taxes. The remainder of the county’s revenue comes from about 60 other fees, turnbacks and other sources.

Total anticipated revenue for 2013 is $7,217,904.44; for 2014 it is $7,287,147.66

Amount appropriated in 2013 was $6,496,114; 2014 is $6,916,932.89

In other matters, JPs approved a resolution permitting the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District to act as grant administrator for the anticipated Wade Knox addition grant.

JPs also approved a resolution calling for county residents to make full use of the Smart 911 service that is provided through the state and 911 fees added to phone bills.

“It is a free service to the citizens of Lonoke County,” Erwin said. “You can put as much information as you want, or as little,” he said.

Information provided by persons who have established a Smart911 profile is displayed to dispatchers when a 911 call is made.

Physical conditions, special considerations and other information can be placed in Smart911.

The service has been available for a year, but few persons have signed up.

“This additional information can definitely save lives,” Erwin remarked.

Appointment of Melissa Bulice of Cabot to the board of directors of the Lonoke-Prairie Library System was confirmed by the JPs.

The quorum court also approved the tax rates to be collected on personal and property taxes.

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