Phillips County's budget was the primary topic of Tuesday night's quorum court session. The evening was marked by debates and discussion on topics relating to the breakdown of funds to be disseminated among the various county agencies. With an annual allowed budgeted amount of $3,131,224in the county's General Fund, 11 agencies were identified on the budget with increases.
The County Judge budget increased to $137,410; County Clerk increased to $210,258; County Clerk increased to $111,924; County Sheriff increased to $1,206,060; County Collector increased to $6,814; County Assessor increased to $15,028; County Juvenile Probation increased to $55,938; County Juvenile Intake increased to $55,938; County Courthouse Maintenance increased to $108,699; County Coroner increased to $35,611; Veterans Administration increased to $15,848; and the Quorum Court increased to $22,070. Most of the increases in the budget were due to increases in Social Security, retirement, and unemployment increases.
Also discussed Tuesday night was an ordinance to levy real and personal property taxes in the county for 2014, including a breakdown of the millage rates and a discussion on increasing the Prosecuting Attorney's budget by $5,170 to be taken from the county's emergency fund 38 for office supplies.
A lengthy debate over appropriations to rural fire departments ensued regarding $50,000 of Act 833 funds. Act 833, passed in 1991 by the 78th General Assembly of Arkansas, is entitled "An act to provide for additional funding of Arkansas fire departments through additional insurance premium taxes assessed against insurers writing fire insurance and similar coverages in order to reduce homeowner insurance rates in Arkansas; and for other purposes". Section 3 of Act 833 notes that Phillips County would receive 1.12 percent.
After the quorum court tried to table the issue, Judge Gentry reminded the court several times that, "This is not county money. Whatever we get in we can disperse out. It will not take any money from the county general fund."
Following a roll call to table the funds disbursement to rural fire departments in the county, confusion overcame the court and they forgot what they were voting on. A motion was made to suspend the rules to read the appropriation again. As the roll was called again to vote on fire department funds, the motion passed.
The last appropriation discussed Tuesday night was the County Election Grant Fund of $9,700, which was passed with no discussion.
Following the business meeting, Gloria Higginbotham from the Humane Society of the Delta addressed the court. She noted, "We have a county building that cannot be used at all until we have some kind of money... the city and the county have not done anything to help. It is a law that you need an animal control for the county or the city and we have done that on our own for five years. Please open your hearts and give us something to help get it open. It would help everybody."
She continued, "We have 80 dogs and its 22 degrees and most of them are outside...and we have a county building that we cannot get into and yet here we are after five years and we have been serving everybody and we need your help."