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AAC


prosecuting attorneys. Money is transferred from the Consti- tutional Officers Fund to the Auditor of State for a variety of payments, including the salaries and benefits of prosecuting attorneys. However, under Ark. Code § 16-21-156(1) counties are only liable for the costs of “facilities, equipment, supplies, salaries and benefits of existing support staff and other office expenses for elected prosecuting attorneys and deputy pros- ecuting attorneys.” Te counties are also listed, in this statute, as responsible for “any and all other line item appropriations’’ approved in their 1999 budget, “except for deputy prosecuting attorneys’ salaries and benefits.” Based on budgeting data from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Budget Administra- tion (DFA), in the last 10 years, the amount of County Aid allocations given per fiscal year from General Revenue has hovered between $19 million and $21.5 million. Tere were 188 deputy prosecutors in 1999. Trough Act 1044 of 1999, the state appropriated approximately $5.3 million to cover expenses for deputy prosecuting attorneys for the last six months of FY 2000 and $11.1 million for FY 2001. In 2001, Act 595 was enacted to set the number of deputy prosecuting attorneys and the budget for deputy prosecuting attorneys for FY 2002 and 2003. Te number of deputy prosecuting attorneys was set at 190. Te state budget appropriated $11,427,486 in FY 2002 for their salaries and personal services and $11,710,111 for FY 2003. In the year 2019, there were 258 deputy prosecutors, and the total amount appropriated became $24,868,441 in Act 142. Tere has been an exponential increase in the appropriated amounts from 1999 when deputy prosecutors became state employees. Also, this $5.5 million has continued to be withheld from the county’s general turnback annually for two decades to be applied to these state salary payments. At the same time, with an increased number of deputy prosecutors, the county funded budgets for office operations of deputy prosecutors in the state court system have skyrocketed.


Public Defenders Public defenders became state employees with the passing


of Act 1341 of 1997, which detailed the transfer of financial responsibility from the county to the state, including coun- ties giving to the state 85 percent of their dedicated public defender revenue through the Administration of Justice Fund. By statute, the state of Arkansas is responsible for the salaries of public defenders, the salaries of secretaries and other support staff of the public defenders, and for the payment of the costs of certain expenses. Tese expenses are designated to be paid by the Arkansas Public Defender Com- mission (Ark. Code § 16-87-302). According to data from Transparency.Arkansas.gov, since 2013 the Arkansas Public Defender Commission has routinely received between $23 million and $29 million in revenue. Furthermore, Act 871 of 2019 appropriated an approximate total of $30,452,927 to the Arkansas Public Defender Commission. Arkansas law


COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020


FEATURE


designates the Arkansas Public Defender Commission as the entity that “allocates positions to each county or judicial district.” Tis includes the distribution of public defenders. Te Commission is guided by factors listed in the statute in determining how many positions are necessary in a given county or judicial district (Ark. Code § 16-87-304). Te state of Arkansas is also given the power to set a floor for the entry level salaries of public defenders and public defender staff (Ark. Code § 16-87-305). According to DFA, at the beginning of 1998, there were still 15 public defenders being paid by the counties. Te counties were told in 2001 that paying for those additional public defenders was to cease. Act 1799 in 2001 added 22 public defenders in order to alleviate the gap this transition would create. Despite this, counties are still paying extra for public defenders that are not their financial responsibility, be- cause the state does not fund an adequate number of public defender positions and public defender office personnel. Te county is only legally responsible for the cost of facili- ties, equipment, and supplies in order to provide an efficient operation of the public defender’s office. However, for the past 20 years, the counties have also been paying for some public defenders, in addition to the counties’ original respon- sibility for the payment of office operations. Based on budget data provided by Transparency Arkansas Counties, approxi- mately 27 counties across the state are paying for public defender expenses that are actually the financial responsibility of the state. Tese extra costs range from a low of $1,000 in Hot Spring County to a high of $938,531 in Benton Coun- ty. A breakdown of the total unnecessary costs to each county is included in the graph on Page 35. According to Transparency Arkansas Counties, the follow- ing counties have been paying the most for public defenders and other expenses in the public defender’s office for which a county is not legally obligated:


• Benton County — $938,531 for personal services such as salaries and benefits;


• Washington County — $643,609 for personal ser- vices, including salaries and benefits;


• Pulaski County — $409,844 in salaries, fringe ben- efits;


• Crittenden County — $154,202 for salaries and ben- efits;


• Crawford County — $148,399 in public defender costs including a secretary, other personnel and ben- efits;


• Mississippi County — $67,626 for support staff; • Carroll County — $28,847 for a public defender; and • Van Buren County — $46,644 for personnel services including a secretary.


See “COSTS” on Page 34 >>> 33


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