County sees more funds, but budget still tight for 2005

Monday, September 27, 2004

With estimated revenues up about $160,000 above this time last year, the budget committee of the Carroll County Quorum Court continues to play it close to the chest as preliminary budgeting for 2005 was addressed Tuesday afternoon.

Budget requests for functions of the county clerk, circuit clerk, treasurer's and Cooperative Extension offices were reviewed, and generally met with approval, though County Treasurer Cindy Collins was quick to point out that all figures are still tentative.

The county's share of the cost for Ozark Regional Transit services was a little more difficult.

County Judge Mike Botelho stated that it appears that the county and the City Of Berryville can come up with enough, or close to enough, to fund one van's service in the county for 2005. Additional funding from Eureka Springs and Green Forest could be used to fund part-time service of another van, and it is possible that businesses which benefit from ORT services might contribute enough money to fully fund a second van.

About $9,000 is needed to fund a van's service for a year, which is matched 50/50 with federal money to cover the full cost. In the 2004 budget, the county applied $2,200 for ORT service, which included three vans in the county.

A motion by Justice of the Peace Larry Fry to earmark $7,500, with a $1,000 "fudge factor" for negotiation purposes, failed, and the committee agreed to recommend $5,000 as the county's contribution.

In side discussion, committee members suggested revamping van schedules to accommodate several persons at a time, and some increase in fares.

Overall, budget requests were up slightly more than what was budgeted for 2004, primarily due to increased postage, retirement and telephone expense, as well as the across-the-board raise granted county employees last month.

County Agriculture Extension Agent Leon Duncan asked for reinstatement of $500, cut from the 2004 budget, for special projects, primarily revolving around 4-H Club activities.

Overall, Duncan requested $35,024, compared to the $28,024 budget in 2004 and the $30,721 budgeted in 2003. Currently the extension office is shy one person to coordinate the 4-H program.

He noted that in 2001 the University of Arkansas Extension Service had a goal for Carroll County to fund its office at $26,000 by 2005. For 2001, the county funded $22,198, and increased that by $999 in 2002. The funding remained at $23,197 in 2003 before dropping by $2,197 in 2004 due to the county's financial crunch and voters' failure to approve a county-wide sale tax for the county's general fund

County Clerk Shirley Doss presented requests for her office, the equalization board, the county clerk's automation account, the election commission and the quorum court.

Doss requested $108,868 for her operations in the county's eastern district, compared to $102,188 budgeted for 2004. Aside from $200 more for public records, to cover purchase of more marriage record books, the uptick was due to routine office costs, including telephone, postage and risk management insurance.

Doss requested $31,950 for her automation fund, which includes a $1,500 increase for service contracts, and $450 for travel expenses, with no other changes.

The equalization board's request came to $6,528, the same as for 2004. The election commission's request dropped significantly due to the lack of major elections scheduled in 2005, from $70,169 in 2004 to $43,262 in 2005.

Botelho outlined the quorum court's suggested budget, which came to $30,509, compared to $26,044 in 2004. That includes a $690 increase for lawsuit insurance and $175 more for dues and memberships, as well as a part time salary request of $3,500.

Funding requested for joint operations of the circuit and county clerks in the Western District Courthouse was $150,956, compared to $143,801.47 requested in 2004.

That request breezed fairly quickly through the committee, with Justice of the Peace Bill Goff saying he had little problem with funding an office that makes as much money for the county as the county clerk does with marriage licenses.

Estimated 2005 revenues from marriage licenses stands at $108,000, with better than 90 percent of those licenses issued in Eureka Springs.

Budget requests from Circuit Clerk Ramona Wilson took a near $34,000 jump with increases above what was requested in 2004 but below what was approved for 2003.

A large part of that increase is due to the raises given all county employees, along with increases for matching Social Security, noncontributory retirement costs, unemployment compensation, printing and supplies, telephone, and slight increases for insurance and postage.

A $1,000 increase in printing and supplies for child support was also requested by Wilson, primarily due to the cost of file boxes for storage of old records when the circuit clerk has additional storage space in the courthouse after the jail operations move to the new facility under construction of Hailey Road.

The budget request for the court recorder came to $45,000, up $2,200 from 2004. Increases in that budget include $200 for travel and $2,000 for professional services, as demands on the court recorder continue to increase.

On the revenue side, state turnback funds continue to decline, estimated for 2005 at $150,000.

Increases in revenue are projected for circuit clerk fees, at $155,000, circuit court fees at $122,000, and the county drug fund at $4,800. Reimbursement from the state for prisoner care is estimated at $78,000, which Treasurer Cindy Collins said is very hard to estimate.

Collins drew a chuckle from committee members as she submitted requests for her office and her automation fund which were less that approved for 2004. For her office, she requested $67,556, down $29 from 2004, and for her automation fund she asked for $37,405, which is $100 less that requested for 2004.

Preliminary projected revenues for the county general fund stands at $3,600,751. The county is mandated to budget at 90 percent of projected revenues, making the budget goal $3,294,676.

The general fund does not include designated funds for roads, new jail construction and 911.

Turnback from the state for roads is expected to increase to $957,214, with another $580,000 anticipated from property taxes. Total revenue for the road department is estimated at $1,736,214, with 90 percent of that being $1,562,593. The department is predicted to carry over $900,000 into 2005.

The status of the jail fund is tricky to estimate because it is not known how large of a loan the county will have to obtain to finalize construction in mid-2005. Revenue from the sales tax for the jail is projected at $1,350,000, with interest of $12,000. A repayment on a loan is projected at $20,000 in 2005, leaving a balance of approximately $942,000, with 90 percent of that being $847,800.

In the 911 fund, fees in 2005 are estimated at $144,000, which will be combined with carryover from 2004 for a total of $234,000.

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