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welfare of citizens and to foster economic growth to ben- efit those same citizens. Unfortunately, many people don’t recognize the roles and responsibilities carried out by local government — both counties and cities. Counties of Arkansas are not just another special interest


group. We are “a political subdivision of the state for the more convenient administration of justice and the exercise of local legislative authority related to county affairs” as defined by Ar- kansas Code § 14-14-102. Terefore, we should be given great consideration in the division of state budget dollars. Counties, by and large, are the delivery arm of various,

extremely vital state services. Te state does provide financial support for many of these services — although not adequate support. In tough budget times when the state is looking for places to cut, state officials seem to forget that cutting support doesn’t diminish needs. Tis past legislative session was successful in that the state

of Arkansas stepped up to the plate to pass legislation to help relieve state prison and county jail overcrowding, which we believe will help in the long term. Tey also provided an adequate appropriation and funding level for paying counties when they house state prisoners and increased the per day rate paid to Arkansas counties by $2. For that we are very grateful. However, that was simply the state of Arkansas stepping up to do what was legal and right — paying for the just and legal debts of the state as is required by the Arkansas Constitution, Article 16, Section 2. However, we also saw at least a couple of bills that became law that will hamper growth in assessment and collection of local property taxes, which will cause a reduction or a frozen level of property taxes on certain types of business property. Tis type of legislation wreaks havoc on local property taxes — a major source of revenue for county and city general and road/street

County Government: Not just another special interest group

ounty government has an important role in maintaining the society upon which we all depend. This responsibility entails all manner of activities to provide for the health, safety and

Seems To Me...

operations; for libraries; for schools; and for other entities. Te schools are the only protected entity. Because of the Lakeview court case and subsequent legislation, any local revenue shortfall will ultimately be made up by state funds. Tat puts the rest of us — counties and oth- ers — at more risk of losing state funds. Especially since the current proclivity of the Legislature is to cut taxes — make the pie smaller even though the mandates of service remain the same or increase. Another negative happening for counties was a small reduc- tion in county general turnback. Tis is a source of revenue provided by the state to help offset the costs counties face in the delivery of state mandated services. Tis source of revenue has been stagnant for years — even though the costs have not been stagnant. Even so, we suffered a small decrease in that source of funding through the Revenue Stabilization Act, although Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s original proposed balanced budget held us harmless. Tat could still have happened if legislators had given counties proper priority. Remember, county government is not just another special interest group — we are an arm of the state to deliver vital state services. Although counties’ general turnback was cut by only 1 per- cent ($216,451), it is probably not widely known that our gross “general turnback” or “county aid” is reduced by a deduction of about $2.3 million for property reappraisal and another $5.5 million to help pay the salaries of Arkansas prosecutors, who are state employees for a state court system. Tat reduces our gross “county aid” to $13.9 million — less the $216,451 cut we took in this year’s RSA. Tis means the state is not even close to pro- viding the proper amount of county aid to fund the mandates put on county government. I am bolstered only by the fact that I know that for most

Eddie A. Jones County Consultant

75 Counties - One Voice 22 COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2015

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