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What should JPs know to perform their duties under the Constitution?

AAC website, under publications library: “Te Ar- kansas Justice of the Peace Procedural Manual,” “Amendment 55, Act 742 of 1977 as amended” (which serves as a guide to Amendment 55 and the implementing language known as the “County Code”); and the “Procedural Guide for Arkansas County Quorum Court Meetings” by the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas, and United States Department of Agriculture. In the summer edition of the County Lines Wes Fowler, AAC contact for justices of the peace, explained the timeframe for publication of or- dinances after passage by the quorum court and the effective dates for: ordinances generally (A.C.A. § 14-14-905); appropriation ordinances (A.C.A. 14-14-907); and emergency ordinances (A.C.A. § 14-14-908). During the fall meeting of the County Judges Association of Arkansas, Fowler, AAC government relations director, and former county judge and county clerk will conduct a presentation and panel discussion on proce- dure for quorum court meetings. As my contribution for the presenta- tion, I updated these materials. Below is my opinion of the crux of what a justice of the peace in Arkansas should know. Tere are certain duties and responsibilities a justice of the peace and


quorum court are mandated to perform; certain actions you may per- form; and certain duties or actions you are prohibited from performing (shall, may and can’t). Many successful leaders in the General Assembly were once justices of the peace. Tey learned how county government worked. It’s now been 25 years since graduating law school and obtaining my law license; and I am about to achieve a decade of work at a place and with people I love. So, from my perspective here are some of the basics to being a justice of the peace in Arkansas. Te quorum court shall adopt by ordinance: an annual budget for the

necessary/mandated expenses of county government; affix the salaries of county employees and county officials; levy millages for the county taxes, municipal taxes, and school taxes; and meet at an organizational meeting and adopt organizational/procedural rules. A.C.A. § 14-14-901 vests the legislative power of county government in the quorum court of each county, subject to the limitations imposed by the Arkansas Constitution and by state law. A primary purpose of the quorum court is to enact a budget for the county that assures the rendering of necessary and mandated services to the citizenry. A.C.A. § 14-14-904 (b)(1)(a) (ii) states that: “Before the end of each fiscal year the quorum court shall make appropriations for the expenses of county government for the following year.” Te core of the mandate is contained in A.C.A. § 14-14-802(a). Which prescribes: “(a) A county government, acting through the county quorum court, shall (emphasis added) provide, through ordinance, for the following necessary services for its citizens:(1) Te administration of justice through the several courts of record of the county;(2) Law enforce- ment protection services and the custody of persons accused or convicted of crimes;(3) Real and personal property tax administration, including assessments, collection, and custody of tax proceeds;(4) Court and public records management, as provided by law, including registration, record-


justice of the peace should know Amendment 55 and part of the County Code, Title 14, Chapter 14, “Legislative Powers” (Subchapter 8); and “Legislative Procedures” (Subchapter 9). Te Association of Arkansas Counties publishes on the

AG Opinions

ing, and custody of public records; and (5) All other services prescribed by state law for performance by each of the elected county of- ficers or departments of county government.” Te remainder of this provision of the Ar- kansas code recites a litany of discretionary services that a quorum court may provide for its citizens; and authorizes appropriations for functions not expressly prohibited by the Constitution or laws of Arkansas. Despite the clear mandate, from time to time a county quorum court will breach their clear duty under the law to adopt an annual and adequate budget for mandated/necessary services. In Union County v. Union County Election Commission, 274 Ark. 286 (1981) the court held counties do not have discretion to decide whether money shall be provided for elections. It is apparent the courts will look to see if there is assertion and proof that a mandatory service is not being provided and whether the appropriation is reasonable. See also: Haynes v. Faulkner County, 326 Ark. 557 (1996). In Mears v. Hall, 263 Ark. 827 (1978) the Supreme Court explained that a quorum court cannot escape the liabilities of providing for mandated services; and a county judge can- not refuse to approve disbursement of county funds in accordance with legally proper ordinances and appropriations. Under Amendment 55, §§ 4 and 5 the quorum court is confided the Constitutional responsibility for affixing the number and salaries of coun- ty employees and salaries of county officials. Te AAC publishes annually on the AAC website a salary survey of salaries for county employees, of- ficials, and the number of positions for the various 75 counties. A.C.A. § 14-14-2504 prescribes the floor and ceiling of salaries for county officials based upon class of county. Comparison of salaries and benefits to those of city and state employees or officials performing comparable tasks fre- quently demonstrate the salaries for county employees and officials are substantially lower and not commensurate with their duties. However, in tough economic times some counties are laying people off work or eliminating health insurance.

A.C.A. § 14-14-904(b)(i)(A)(i) absolutely mandates: “Te quorum

court at its regular meeting in November of each year shall levy the coun- ty taxes, municipal taxes, and school taxes for the current year.” Te law allows for an extension by the Director of the Assessment Coordination Department (ACD) for up to 60 days of the date for the levy of taxes for good cause shown by the county judge and county clerk from reappraisal or rollback.

See Attorney General Opinion Nos: 2010-157; 1997-421;

and 1997-393. Attorney General 2007-301: held that the road tax levied under Amendment 61 is to be levied at the regular time taxes are levied as A.C.A. § 26-79-101 (at the regular November meeting of the Quorum Court). Subsection 904(b)(i)(A)(iv) allows the county court to order a correction to the levy ordinance due to clerical error, scrivener error, or failure of the tax entity to report the correct millage to the quorum court. See also: Attorney General Opinion Nos: 2004-021 and 2003-031. Some counties have sought refuge by recessing the regular November meeting

Continued to Next Page >>> COUNTY LINES, FALL 2012

Mark Whitmore AAC Chief Counsel

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