Quorum court approves 2013 county budget

With little fanfare, the Jefferson County Quorum Court approved a $12.7 million budget for 2013, a figure that is approximately one percent more than what was approved for 2012.

The County General budget was set at $9,186,008.27, an increase of 1.31 percent, while the budget for the County Road Department was $3,534,504. That figure reflects a .39 percent increase over the 2012 budget.

In the cases of both County General and the county Road Department, the increases were the result of hikes in retirement and medical benefits premiums.

The county’s legislative body also approved extending the 2012 budgets for the adult jail, juvenile detention center, rural fire protection, which all receive funds from the one-cent Public Safety Sales tax for three months.

The ordinance said that “significant changes must be made to the aforementioned funds to accommodate the projected shortfalls in tax revenues and the Jefferson County Quorum Court, Elected Officials and Department Heads are in need of more time to complete their due diligence to effectively address these issues.”

Jefferson County Treasurer Elizabeth Rinchuso has projected that county revenue next year will be approximately $2 million less than revenue this year.

That projection includes about $500,000 less in the Public Safety Sales Tax and $300,000 less in collections at the county jail.

After the budget was approved, Justice of the Peace Mandy Alford complained about some agencies and departments having large amounts in their 2013 budgets listed only as miscellaneous, complaining particularly about an $800,000 line item for the adult jail.

“I don’t like that,” Alford said. “Nobody should have that.”

County Judge Mike Holcomb, who was chairing his final meeting of the Quorum Court, told Alford that the miscellaneous listings in a number of county departments were the result of changes in the budget process mandated by the state of Arkansas.

“They came at the end of last year and wanted us to change them but I said no because it wouldn’t have given the clerk’s office time to do it,” Holcomb said.

Justice of the Peace Dr. Herman Ginger said that the problem will be corrected with next year’s budget.

“They didn’t have line items for a lot of their expenses under what the state wanted,” Ginger said.

Dr. Conley Byrd also complained about the current process which does not take into consideration items which county departments know about in advance, such as increased postage costs for the clerk’s office next year to mail out reappraisal notices to county residents.

“Those items ought to be built into the budget process instead of us having to do supplemental appropriations,” Byrd said. “We talked about this at the end of last year and I suggest that we come up with a plan on how to add those items to the budget process.”

County Judge-elect Dutch King, who has been attending meetings for the last several months, and will take office in January, told the justices that he will be sworn in at 9 a.m. on Jan. 1 in the Quorum Courtroom, and invited them to attend.

“I look forward to working with you and for Jefferson County,” King said.