2014 Franklin County Budget Talks Subject of Special Meeting

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Government budget talks have been big news lately, and the 2014 budget of Franklin County was no exception. The Franklin County Quorum Court spent 3 ½ hours in special session going over a 6 inch pile of paperwork containing the 72 individual budgets that make up the County’s proposed 2014 budget.

This is the first year all nine Franklin County Justices have been directly included in the minutia of the budgeting process. For several decades, the Quorum Court had a three person Budget Committee that checked each budget for accountability before it was presented to the Court for final approval. Then in 2011, the Budget Committee was disbanded by former County Judge Joe Powell so the 2012 and 2013 budgets were prepared by Department heads without direct oversight by a Quorum Court Budget Committee.

Some Quorum Court members were not happy with this arrangement and in September 2013 an Ordinance to reinstate the Quorum Court Budget Committee was narrowly defeated by a vote of 5/4. In its place, the Court approved a suggestion by current Franklin County Judge Janet Powell to assign each Quorum Court a department budget to study and discuss with the corresponding Department head as a way to include everyone in the budget process.

Justice Freddy Ree, who worked in Joe Powell’s office for many years, was given the County Judge’s budget while the Court’s youngest Justice Garrett Shepherd was given the largest budget, the County Sheriff’s budget. Justice Paul Schaffer got the County Clerk’s budget; Justice Chad Haberer had the Circuit Clerk budget; Justice David Hewitt was given the Chancery Court budget; Justice David Bowles got the County Treasurer budget; Justice Lacey Neissl had the Assessor’s budget; Justice Mary Jane Cains, who had been the Chairman of the Budget Committee for many years and spearheaded the Ordinance to reinstate of the Budget Committee, was given the Coroner’s budget.

Many Department heads were on hand to explain their budgets and Franklin County Treasurer Shelly Wilson spent a good deal of time explaining details of each budget. The only budget that was denied was $100 set aside for a grant-in-aid for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital because this money had never been requested by the hospital, according to Wilson.

All nine Justices were present for this meeting and no negative comments over the new budget process were given during what turned out to be a very long meeting.

Toward the end of the meeting Justice Bowles said he had been in the Quorum Court for the past several years but previously had no idea how much work went into planning the yearly budgets. Justice Lacey Neissl also thanked Treasurer Wilson on the hard work she had put into budget preparation.

The 2014 budget will now be compiled and the final budget will be handed out to Justices at the November meeting and voted on in December.

2014 Budget Basics

Projected Revenues for the County General Budget is $3,737,213 with $3,287 left unappropriated.

This revenue budget does not include revenues from the new state sales tax on ticket sales for events at Mulberry Mountain in 2013 at this time, since Wilson said the county has not yet received money from this tax and therefore could not estimate a number for 2014. However the budget amount does include $40,000 from a new state wide sales tax (County Four Lane tax) that went into a $487,734 account titled State Aid that is for the county’s Road Department.

The ½% County Sales Tax revenue line totals $560,000 in projected revenue. Wilson noted that although the sales tax in the county is 8.5%, the state takes three percent off the top so the ½% the county gets is figured on the 5.5% remaining sales tax dollars collected in Franklin County.

Special sales tax revenue from the Hospital fund is projected at $1,549,080; County Road revenue is projected at $1,956,737 including $1,315,857 in state aid, $428,700 in property taxes and $291,995 in federal aid.

Total Appropriation in County General for 2014 is $3,733,926. The largest projected budgets are County Sheriff Department - $728,517; County Jail- $597,955; County Accessor- $258,895; Circuit Clerk - $249,737; County Clerk - $213,511; County Collector $194,480; Ozark District Court -$156,806; County Judge- $133,973; ReAppriasal-$133,000; Courthouse Maintenance-$123,133; Juvenile Intake Officer-$115,231; County Treasurer-$110,353; Elections $103,498.

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