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10/02/2019

County Board Reviews Proposed Budgets

 

Justice of the Peace Michael White, Quorum Court Finance Committee chairman, presided at the Monday afternoon meeting reviewing several 2020 budget requests including the County Senior Citizens, Assessor's Office, and the Office of Emergency Management. All financial committee members were present.

White gave a handout with informative data he had gathered comparing the number of employees, salary, population and information with other Class 4 counties and adjoining counties (Crittenden, Class 5, and Craighead, Class 6.)

Mississippi County is one of eight Class 4 counties in Arkansas with populations of 30,000 to 50,000. The census bureau has Mississippi County right at 41,000 in 2018.

White also compared the 2nd Judicial District counties (made up of six counties). Those counties share judges and case filings. There are 11 judges rotating.

He said Mississippi County is one of three counties with two courthouses in the 2nd Judicial District. He also presented the number of cases at different locations.

White said it is good information and he wanted to make sure he compared apples to apples.

Amanda Adams with the Senior Citizens talked about the services offered in Mississippi County and the budget submitted. She passed out a sample of the menu of the meals served daily.

“We are the largest county in Arkansas,” she said.

They serve 13 cities and the rural areas from Frenchman's Bayou to Buckeye.

Adams said an average of 270 senior citizens are served a day at the three centers and the home delivered meals on wheels.

County Judge John Alan Nelson said there is a need for home delivery meals.

Adams said there are more people coming to the centers and they are willing to host fundraisers. Blytheville has an average of 58 a day; Osceola, 20 to 25; and Manila had about 35.

She was asked what had changed.

"We did not get the $30,000 from the Governor's rainy day fund and Medicaid funds are less," she said. "We have less money to work with."

She also talked about the cost of vehicle repairs. To date this year the repair cost has been $14,229. Vehicle repairs have gone up every year.

The county is paying about $19,840.17 a month when needed and lately it has been needed.

Justice Fred Fleeman asked about service for the Leachville area and how would she know if there is a need.

The Leachville center closed because of low attendance.

Adams said they deliver meals to Leachville residents and she spoke to the mayor about the need.

She went on to say she would like to explore the possibilities at the first of the year.

Adams said she would like to continue to give Manila $6,000 ($500 a month) next year to help with utility costs.

"We helped with utilities last year and I would like to do it again this year with your approval," Adams said.

Manila built a new senior center last year. The $6,000 is included in the budget submitted and would not require additional money.

Adams said she is working within the budget but said if there is a future need she would like to be able to ask and hopefully funds could be there.

She also announced they would be hosting a fish fry to raise money for the Meals on Wheels on Oct. 18. The event raised $3,000 last year. Manila held a spaghetti supper recently and raised $1,000.

Judge Nelson said there is a need for two new vehicles and the judges office would be exploring the options.

Harley Bradley, tax assessor, gave a report on the duties and work conditions of the employees of the Mississippi County Assessor's office.

He said it is estimated the 2019 taxes collected in 2020 will be $36,123,383 for county (10 percent), schools (80 percent), and cities (10 percent).

Bradley thanked the county officials for their foresight in the two employees for business/personal tax assessment. The business/personal tax is up 21 million assessed value over the last year, which is to the county general in the amount of $105,000. That comes out to paying $8,000 county portion for the two business/personal employees which equals a 1 to 13.1 ratio. Overall, with all of the work done in the assessor's office it averages for every $1 put in the budget, it generates $55 back.

He also said his staff works hard and efficiently maintaining four offices.

Bradley and the committee discussed paying taxes online. Bradley pointed out by law paying taxes on new vehicles has to be done in person.

White expressed his appreciation to Mr. Bradley for the work he does.

Wayne Reynolds, Office of the Emergency Management, said his budget included few increases. He did ask for $6,000 for upgraded radios and the upgrade of the office computer.

Reynolds pointed out the state would pay half of the cost.

"Disaster readiness is imperative when we face any disaster," Judge Nelson said. "Wayne does a lot of IT. He does a lot more than just his job."

The committee will meet on Mondays working through all of the county budgets including the sheriff's department, landfill, roads, public defenders, circuit judges and 911 with a goal of presenting it a proposed complete budget at the regular November meeting.