Bill's passing settles dispute over revenue split
CARROLL COUNTY -- Controversy over a divided county has been put to rest "for the most part" because of House Bill 1545, which passed last week and will allow revenue from both sides of the county to be combined.
At issue was Act 74 of 1883 that said money collected in each of the county's two judicial districts was to be collected and kept separate -- a law that was not followed and virtually forgotten until brought to light last year.
Also debated was the judicial dividing line, which was thought to be the Kings River. However, research revealed it was actually a survey line that gave another 45 square miles to the eastern side.
Arkansas lawmakers quelled much of the debate last week when they passed House Bill 1545, which allows the commingling of revenue from both districts -- and sets the Kings River as the dividing line.
Rep. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, filed the bill at the request of the Carroll County Quorum Court.
"It legitimized what's always been done," he said.
The bill passed the Senate late Wednesday and cleared the House Thursday with a 91-0 vote.
All that remains is the governor's signature to make it law.
King said the bill's co-sponsor, Sen. Randy Laverty, D-Jasper, added an amendment to move the dividing line to the Kings River.
That action makes it easier on everyone involved in the judicial process because everything will remain the same, including the two jury pools, King noted.
Never at issue was the effect the act had on the county's two courthouses, "contrary to what's been said," King added.
Justice of the Peace Ron Flake, a supporter of the bill, had high praise for King and Laverty.
"I give congratulations to Laverty and King for getting this done," he said. "I know they had a very busy week."
Flake said the passage of HB 1545 will put to rest most of the controversy surrounding the old law, but not all.
"We still have possible problems from not following the law in the past," he said. "The library lawsuit is an example."
That lawsuit, filed by the Eureka Springs Carnegie Library board, claims the library was shorted library tax revenue based on Act 74, that it collected half the revenue but only received a third when the money was commingled and equally divided between the county's three libraries.
Tim Parker, attorney for the library board, argued that the Carnegie Library board was entitled to some $500,000 it had been shorted in the past and demanded that the library receive the larger percentage in the future.
The passage of HB 1545 puts an end to Parker's efforts to collect a greater share in the future -- but not what he says is due from the past.
Parker didn't mince words when stating his displeasure with the bill's passage.
He said once the governor signs the bill, the board's attempt to get a greater percentage in the future is history.
"They just cut us off," he stated. "I consider our politicians as stabbing us in the back. They continue to screw us. Our only recourse is to overthrow the government, which I'm not going to do, but we can elect new politicians.
"We will be going for back money that is owed us," Parker added, referring to the $500,000.
Flake said local lawmakers will deal with that issue as it makes its way through the process.
"The library is just one example of what could come," he said.
"There are so many questions, some that may never get answered, such as what amount of revenue actually came out of the Western District."
Flake said he is "absolutely" pleased that the bill passed, allowing the county to "continue what we've been doing."