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Arkansas law [Arkansas Code § 14-21-106] actually ascribes the term “surplus” to any moneys left remaining unexpended and unappropriated in any county fund from any previous year. In accordance with law the county court, the county judge in his/her judicial capacity, may enter a court order to add the surplus to the respective funds of which the surplus remains unexpended and use it as revenue for the current fiscal year. So, it is actually the county judge who gets to decide whether or not to use the surplus or carryover cash from any fund in making the current year budget. More county judges should exercise the authority this law provides to hold back all or part of the carryover fund balances to put the county in a better financial operating position — especially as it relates to cash flow and preparation for emergencies. Te counties with the best cash flow, of course, are the very

few that do not use the carryover cash balances to make their budget for the following year. Tey use it as a “surplus” or “re- serve,” as the law intended, to make additional appropriations during the course of the year as unexpected needs arise for capi- tal expenditures, infrastructure expenses and other emergency type expenditures. Using the carryover fund balances recklessly does not exoner- ate or absolve the sin of bad finance management and budget- ing. It simply buys a little time. If a county will still be in the same or possibly a worse situation once the clock has run out, using the fund balance will prove moot. Deferring the inevitable impact of overreliance on fund balances is synonymous with mortgaging the future. Counties should deal with current prob- lems with current resources. Tis means saying “no” to frivolous expenses, unnecessary projects and unsustainable tax/revenue reductions — and saying “yes” to available revenue sources such as fees and fines allowed by law, sales taxes and even the dreaded property tax for those counties that have not maximized their general and road millage ... and there are still several counties that have not. By the way, the property tax is the most reliable and constant source of revenue in good times and bad. And remember, the law clearly defines those things that a county must fund and those things a county may fund — but are not required to [A.C.A. 14-14-802]. A county must prioritize! Don’t try to fund more than you have finances for. A woman proudly told her friend, “I’m responsible for mak- ing my husband a millionaire.” “Well, what was he before he married you?” the friend asked. “A billionaire,” she replied.

Don’t be a county or district official that takes a county backwards financially. Tere are many new and relatively new county and district officials in the state of Arkansas, so I know there is a lot to be learned. Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this means as long as you serve. Tere is so much county law to learn and many laws change every time the legislature meets. So, even if you knew it all, you wouldn’t know it all very long.


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Well, that’s one of my standard “stump speeches” concerning county budgeting. I am fully aware that I’m no Abraham Lin- coln who was known as a skilled stump speaker with his droll ways and dry jokes. A classic story about Lincoln described an incident that oc-

curred “on the stump” when he was 27 years old and still living in New Salem, Ill. Riding into Springfield, Ill., to give a stump speech on behalf

of the Whig Party in the 1836 elections, Lincoln heard about a local politician, George Forquer, who had switched from Whig to Democrat. Forquer had been generously rewarded, as part of the Spoils System of the Jackson administration, with a lucrative government job. Forquer had built an impressive house, the first house in Springfield to have a lightning rod. Tat afternoon Lincoln delivered his speech for the Whigs, and then Forquer stood to speak for the Democrats. He at- tacked Lincoln, making sarcastic remarks about Lincoln’s youth. Given the chance to respond, Lincoln said, “I am not so

young in years as I am in the tricks and trades of a politician. But, live long or die young, I would rather die now, than, like the gentleman ...” (At this point Lincoln pointed at Forquer.) “... Change my politics, and with the change receive an office worth three thousand dollars a year. And then feel obliged to erect a lightning rod over my house to protect a guilty con- science from an offended God.” From that day forward Lincoln was respected as a devastating stump speaker. I believe all would agree that keeping our counties running efficiently, effectively and financially sound is a painful process, requiring shared sacrifice and pain. Making tough choices is what county and district officials do to keep counties solvent and moving forward. As an elected official you took an oath of office that binds you to uphold the law and perform the duties of your office. You did not have to swear to please everyone. Elected officials are elected to perform first and foremost. Pleas- ing everyone is a luxury no county can afford. County budgeting is an intricate process — a laborious

process — but a necessary process. You must spend the time and make the effort to develop a solid financial plan and county budget. Like many other things, county budgeting requires pure common sense. Use that common sense to: (1) Discipline yourself to actually spend the time and exert the effort to learn and understand the county’s financial condition; (2) Be creative, but lawful, in solving your problems; and (3) Be willing to make the tough decisions that have to be made to put your county on solid financial footing.

All county and district officials must be cognizant of the fact

that you are together on the same ship. If the ship goes down, everyone goes down. Te people of your county suffer. Be real leaders. Make the decisions that will keep the ship afloat. Don’t buy a little time. Find a real solution. Now, for the erection of a lightning rod over my house!


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