JPs approve 2019 budget: County spending plan includes raises, adjustments

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Carroll County Quorum Court on Monday night adopted a 2019 county budget that includes an across-the-board raise of 70 cents an hour for all hourly county employees as well as salary adjustments for several clerks who work in county offices.

District 1 Justice of the Peace Jack Deaton, chairman of the quorum court’s joint budget and finance committee, presented the proposed budget ordinance and asked his fellow JPs if they would like to have time to review it before voting. The consensus among the other seven JPs in attendance was that they trusted the recommendations of Deaton and the committee.

Some of the JPs continued to express frustration with the Carroll County Airport Commission, whose members have openly discussed the possibility of closing the airport and potentially leaving the county liable to repay federal and state grants received by the airport.

Airport commissioners wanted a $60,000 allocation from the county in 2019; the budget and finance committee originally proposed $40,000 but later amended that to $50,000 and forgiveness of $10,000 of an approximately $20,000 debt owed to the county by the airport commission.

District 10 JP Larry Swofford said he was disappointed by the airport commission’s tactics and will think long and hard before voting in favor of any more county funds being used to support grant applications by the airport commission.

Outgoing District 7 JP Noreen Watson also said she was disappointed by the airport commission, noting that other some other departments’ budget requests also were not fully funded.

Also at Monday’s meeting, JPs:

• approved a resolution appointing Art Klass to the Inspiration Point Rural Fire Protection District Commission to serve the remainder of the term of Gene Chapman, who has resigned; and re-appointing Ed Thompson and James Black to three-year terms on the commission;

• approved an ordinance setting the county, municipal and school tax millage for 2018;

• approved an ordinance approving and levying the voluntary contribution millage for 2018;

• approved an appropriation ordinance allowing an employee to receive vacation pay in lieu of taking time off from work;

• and approved an ordinance creating a catastrophic sick leave bank for county employees.

All of the agenda items were approved by votes of 8-0. District 8 JP Don McNeely and District 9 JP Roger Hall were absent, and the District 3 seat is vacant following the resignation of Lamont Richie.

Watson, who did not seek re-election in the November general election after serving just one term, spearheaded several projects during her time as a JP. She led the effort to rewrite the county’s employee handbook, was the driving force behind the salary adjustments that she says will bring county employees’ pay more in line with those of similar Arkansas counties, and also developed the proposed ordinance that will create the catastrophic sick leave bank for county employees.

During his comments at the end of the meeting, County Judge Sam Barr noted that a study of county salaries had been proposed before, but would have cost $18,000. He praised Watson for her efforts and research that he said saved the county that amount.

During her remarks, Watson explained that she chose not to seek re-election in order to care for her daughter, who is ill. She said that if her daughter’s health improves, she may run again for a seat on the quorum court.

Watson also praised former District 3 Justice of the Peace Lamont Richie, who resigned from the court earlier this year, as a mentor and an example of leadership for all the JPs.

Also during his remarks, Barr told JPs that the airport commission will meet at noon on Friday, Dec. 21, and he encouraged them to attend if possible.

The quorum court will meet on the first Monday of January to set meeting dates and times for 2019.

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