Quorum court to wrestle with '06 budget at Nov. 18 meeting

Monday, November 7, 2005

BERRYVILLE -- Initial figures show that Carroll County has close to $10 million available to budget for 2006.

But many of those revenues consist of designated funds from grants and tax revenues for county roads, libraries and detention center, along with specialized accounts consisting of a percentage of revenues collected in county offices and designated by the state for the use of those offices.

A sizable portion of those so-called automation funds were donated by elected county officials during the county's budget crunch in 2003 and 2004, which was aggravated by a major increase in employee health insurance premiums, the failure of a county one-cent sales tax vote, and a decrease in state turnback funds. That squeeze resulted in a hiring freeze, and only began to ease in late 2004 when long deferred raises for employees were instituted.

The near $10 million available for 2006 budgetary purposes is misleading, however. Again, that figure includes some grants the county anticipates, such as a $26,942 grant for a portion of costs in complying with Arkansas Standards for Homeland Security and FEMA.

It is no surprise that the biggest jump in expenses comes under the administration of Sheriff Chuck Medford, whose staff has expanded significantly with the new detention center coming on line this year.

As a result, total personnel services of $368,403 budgeted for seven months in 2005 goes up to a request for $949,300; supplies increase from $99,313 to $127,500 and other services and charges increase from $155,997 to $217.500.

From the county's designated sales tax for the detention center, estimated at $1,552,266 in 2006, payments of $540,000 will come off the top for mortgage payment, with another $1,294,300 for the detention center's operation, compared to the $823,713 budgeted in 2005.

Still, according to County Treasurer Cindy Collins, that budget comes within the 90 percent of projected revenues from the sales tax which the county is required to limit projected spending to.

In central dispatch, also under the sheriff, the 2006 budget request is for $493,700, compared to $342,340 approved for 2005.

Collins is concerned about the funding requested for 911 re-addressal and mapping, which is an ongoing project as real estate continues to be developed.

As in many other county operations in 2005, the re-addressal office is targeted to come in under its budget of $84,660, with $50,893.48 spent as of Sept. 30. The re-addressal/mapping budget request is $140,101 for 2006, which includes a $26,942 anticipated grant from Homeland Security.

The county road department, also supported by a designated tax, is asking for $1,640,758 of its estimated $2,470,172 in tax revenues.

Any surpluses from the roads department's tax revenues cannot be used for any other purpose, and optional uses for the tax monies going to the detention center are limited to central dispatch and roads.

The Berryville, Green Forest and Eureka Springs libraries have a combined $906,723 in estimated revenues coming in 2006, and are requesting a combined total of $798,961.

There are various smaller funds, such as boating safety and child support, which have remained constant for years.

General funds available to budget are $3,579,757, which includes almost $200,000 in carry-over, and designated grants totaling $127,557.

The quorum court is to address the budget at its Nov. 18 meeting.

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