SEEMS TO ME ... Budgets

the major categories of expenditures, except for the Person- al Services category. Under this scenario, usually the county judge is required to report to the quorum court each month the line item transfers made during the previous month. Some counties enact their budget ordinance with an article/ section that provides that any transfer of monies between the major categories of expenditures can be made only with prior approval of the quorum court. Either way is proper and con- stitutional. It is simply a matter of how much latitude a county quorum court wants to provide. An AG opinion released in 2002 did not view this type of restriction as an encroachment on the executive branch, “rather by requiring its approval of the transfers of monies, the Quorum Court has simply en- sured that it retains its appropriation authority.” Case law has rendered that an official must live within their appropriation. In a 1988 case, Venhaus v. Adams, the Supreme Court ruled “an agency of county gov- ernment that performs a function imposed by law must live within its ap- propriation unless that appropriation

is unrea-

sonable.” So, there is an onus on the quorum court to be reasonable in making appropria- tions for the various of- fices and departments of county government. However, appropriations made by the quorum court are pre- sumed to be reasonable and the burden rests on the office or entity filing the claim in excess of an appropriation to prove un- reasonableness. So said the Arkansas Supreme Court in Union County v. Union County Election Commission. Te penchant to overspend should be stopped on the front end. I believe we all understand that the quorum court is the authority when it comes to appropriating county funds. Ar- kansas Code § 14-14-801(b)(2) lists one of the court’s respon- sibilities as “appropriate public funds for the expenses of the county in a manner prescribed by ordinance.” As it relates to the annual budget, Arkansas Code § 14-14-904(b)(1)(A)(ii) requires, “Before the end of each fiscal year, the quorum court shall make appropriations for the expenses of county govern- ment for the following year.” At the point of appropriation, it then becomes the duty of

rests on the office or entity filing the claim in excess of an appropriation to prove unreasonableness.


the executive branch to administer the expense side of the budget. Te county judge, under the authority of Amendment 55 and § 14-14-1101(a)(2), must authorize and approve dis- bursement of appropriated county funds. More specifically, §

20 Continued From Page 19 <<< 14-14-1102(b)(2)(B) provides in pertinent part:

• (B) Before approving any voucher for the payment of county funds, the county judge, or his designated representative, shall determine that:

• (i) Tere is a sufficient appropriation available for the purpose and there is a sufficient unencumbered bal- ance of funds on hand [cash] in the appropriate county fund to pay therefor;

• (ii) Te expenditure is in compliance with the purposes for which the funds are appropriated;

(iii) All state purchasing laws and other state laws or ordinance of the quorum court are complied with in the expenditure of the moneys;

ppropriations made by the quorum court are presumed to be reasonable and the burden

• (iv) Te good or services for which expenditure is to be made have been rendered and the payment thereof has been incurred in a lawful manner and is owed by the county ... •

(C)(i) No money shall be paid out of the treasury until it shall have been appropriated by law and then only in accordance with the ap- propriation.

Te county judge can do a lot to stop overspend-

ing by following this section of law. And if a claim gets approved where the cash is not in the fund on which the claim has been approved, the treasurer has a duty to refuse to issue payment. Arkansas Code § 14-15-805 basically says the treasurer shall re- fuse payment of any warrant or check that would cause a deficit balance in a special revenue fund or a deficit balance of the gen- eral fund in aggregate.

What happens if a county official overspends his or her ap-

propriation and the county receives goods and/or services as a result of the over expenditure? Does the county have a cause of action against the official to recover all or part of the over expenditure? Tat’s a good question not specifically addressed in law. But there are any number of codes dealing with misconduct with respect to an official’s budget, such as:

• § 14-22-103 declares it a misdemeanor, subject to a fine and removal from office, for any county official to vio- late the procedures for purchasing;


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