Budget committee slashes funding for county airport

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Carroll County Quorum Court budget committee met Wednesday afternoon to continue work on a proposed budget for the coming year.

County Treasurer Cindy Collins said the county's general fund looks good for 2015, even with proposed 50-cent raises for all county employees. Despite her optimism, the committee members have looked at every department's budget for places to cut expenses.

The justices of the peace considered the budget for Prosecuting Attorney Tony Rogers. They postponed a decision on that department, and they planned to ask Rogers to attend an upcoming meeting of the committee.

JP Ron Flake expressed concern over the amount of comp time in the department, and committee members also questioned some salaries within the office, especially Investigator Robin Arnold. The JPs considered her

salary high for a non-elected position. JP Lamont Richie said the quorum court needs a salary structure that covers all departments, rather than trying to evaluate salaries on a department-by-department basis.

Circuit Clerk Ramona Wilson attended the meeting to answer questions about her budget. The JPs did not have any objections, but they asked Wilson about the possibility of reducing staff in the Western District courthouse. The circuit clerk and the county clerk share four employees, and Wilson explained that during the weeks when court is in session in Eureka Springs, the circuit clerk's staff is completely occupied, and they use the non-court weeks to catch up. The county clerk's office issues many wedding licenses, and someone stays in the office on Saturdays to issue licenses.

JP Gaylon Riggs said the committee is not considering firing someone, but they might not fill a vacancy.

"We will revisit this," said JP Jack Deaton. "We're trying to get everyone a raise, and we have to come up with some ideas."

The committee had notified the Carroll County Airport Commission that it would review the airport's budget, but no one from the commission attended. Deaton said the quorum court has "bent over backwards" in asking for financial reports from the CCAC, with no results. Richie and Flake agreed that the JPs have received almost nothing. "I'm a supporter of the airport, but there seems to be a lack of control and supervision," Flake said. "The airport has been a continuing source of complaints."

The airport had a budget of $84,000 this year, and the CCAC had submitted a request for $93,000 for 2015. The JPs tossed out numbers as low as $32,000, before settling on $48,000 for the coming year.

"It's not responsible of the quorum court to keep giving taxpayer money if we can't account for it," Riggs said.

Collins said the county may have to pay part of the $77,000 the airport borrowed to build new hangars. Only two of 10 new hangars have been leased.

The JPs questioned a requested increase from $35,800 to $45,000 for salaries for the airport manager and assistant, and they discussed other expenditures that they said seemed excessive. The committee members proposed meting out the year's budget month-by-month, dependent on receipt of the requested financial information. They also suggested taking the fire insurance premiums off the top of the monthly $4,000 payments, to make sure county property is protected.

"They've been doing a poor business out there," Deaton said.

The committee does not make a final decision on the budget. They will make a recommendation to the full quorum court, and the JPs will still have an opportunity to make changes. The budget committee has met four times since the end of September.

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