County budget to be considered by full quorum court

Thursday, September 22, 2005

BERRYVILLE -- County budgeting for 2006 is fast approaching, and on Friday quorum court members updated job categories, numbers of positions and minimum and maximum salaries which will have to be considered when planning gets underway in earnest.

County Judge Ulys Smith told JPs that County Clerk Shirley Doss is working up budget forms from the various departments and will present them to JPs at their regular Oct. 21 meeting. Smith anticipates work on the budget to get under way in November.

As Smith eliminated all county committees in January, the budget will be a project, from start to finish, of the quorum court working as a committee of the whole.

Approval or ordinances authorizing the number of employees and salary ranges for various positions, in both the road department and other divisions of the county, were approved unanimously with little discussion.

In response to a question by JP Harley Barnum, Smith explained that 35 hours has generally constituted full-time employment since at least 1990.

Spreadsheets accompanying the ordinances were attached, and the one covering jobs paid through the county's general fund was modified to show that the tax collector's office has one chief deputy and two first deputies, while the assessor's office has two chief deputies and one first deputy. The two offices share an employee who is bi-lingual.

Passage of the two ordinances updates schedules created in 2002, and reflects across-the-board raises given in late 2004 and early 2005.

The spreadsheets include positions not previously listed, including new positions created with the detention center's opening, as well as the airport manager, juvenile probation office, public defender and coroner. In no instance is a maximum salary any more than $4,000 more than the minimum salary for the same position.

Some discussion centered around the final passage of an ordinance setting expenses to be paid by the City of Eureka Springs for dispatch equipment located at the Eureka Springs Police Department.

Earlier in the week the Eureka Springs City Council voted to set an election to determine whether to designate a five-percent tariff on phone service, which all county telephone customers pay, for enhanced emergency dispatch from Eureka Springs. The diverted tariff would only apply to telephone customers within the Eureka Springs city limits.

County officials stated during Friday's meeting that they had no word from Eureka Springs officials regarding provisions of the ordinance.

Candy Bawcom, 911 manager for the county, stated that options provided by the ordinance's passage are that Eureka Springs could pay for the equipment and keep it; that Eureka Springs could provide dispatch service for the county; or the equipment could be removed. Some of the equipment is leased, which could be taken by the county or by Southwestern Bell.

Value of the equipment, with depreciation considered, is $36,700.32. State law does not allow the county to give the equipment to the city.

The motion passed with seven in favor and one opposed, with JP Morris Pate voting against it, and JPs Eva Reeve and Mark Jorgensen absent.

The vote split in the opposite direction, with Pate being the only one in favor, when JPs declined to approve an ordinance providing $30,432 to 911/central dispatch.

The money, according to JP Jim Wheeler, was not new money, as it resulted from Green Forest paying for some 48 months of dispatch service, at $634 per month.

The proposed ordinance would have provided $17,500 to cover lightning damage not yet paid by insurance, along with a shredder, battery backup, a computer and file cabinets, which had not been budgeted for in 2005.

In voting against the ordinance, JP Larry Swofford stated that he would introduce an ordinance in October to designate $17,500 to cover the lightning damage.

With little discussion, the quorum court approved a supplemental appropriation of $80,000 for fuel and asphalt in the road department to meet expenses resulting from unanticipated price increases. The appropriation does not impact the road department's reserve funds.

A supplemental appropriation of $12,000, received from the U.S. Justice Department, was also approved. The $12,000 is designated for an equipment training room, firearms training, and cameras for the sheriff's department.

With no discussion, JPs approved the appointment of Vada Oleson to the Green Forest Library Board, filling the unexpired term of Sarah Mahoney and expiring in 2009, and the appointment of Barbara Newberry to a five-year term to the board, which expires in 2010.

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