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quorum-court-blocks-vote-on-taxes-for-sheriffs-department(Submitted by a Faulkner County observer)

The main event of the Faulkner County Quorum Court meeting this past Tuesday was a resolution about a special election to let voters decide whether to reallocate an existing sales tax to fund badly needed raises for the Sheriff’s Department.

A recent salary survey showed almost all Faulkner County Departments are paid at or above the average when compared to equivalent (Class 6) counties.  The problem is the Sheriff’s Office is paid well below average — and that has been identified as the cause of high turnover in the Department.

Lengthy discussion about permanent funding for the Sheriff’s Department shows that the Road Department does not spend all monies raised by its two funding sources:  the County General road tax (generates approximately $4 million annually) and the half cent sales tax (generates $8 million annually which is split 50/50).

In fact, over the last several years the Road Department funds have developed a surplus.  As of March 1 this year the surplus amounted to $25 million.  On average the county spends $7 million through the Road Department each year.

This rather excessive surplus seems to indicate a misallocation of tax funds that was not foreseen 16 years ago when voters approved that tax.

The existing one-half-cent sales tax from 1999 is currently dedicated 50/50 to the Road Department and to Criminal Justice (the Sheriff’s Department).  The proposal would have changed that 50/50 split to 65/35 with 65% going to Criminal Justice.

Salary increases already approved and implemented this year for the Sheriff’s office were taken from this year’s General Fund; there is no guarantee that funding will be available next year.

This is what resulted in the resolution for an election to change the allocation of the half-cent sales tax from a 50/50 split to a more equitable 65/35 split. (The reallocation would eliminate the need for additional taxes to be enacted just to pay for Sheriff’s Department raises.)

The QC rejected the resolution to take the issue to the voters by a final tally of 7 to 6.

Voting against the resolution were JP’s Linda Paxton (D), Johnny Brady (R), Rocky Lawrence (R), Dan Thessing (R), Barbara Mathes (D), LeRoy Hendricks (D), and Barry Williams (R).  JPs voting for the resolution include Steve Goode (R), Randy Higgins (R), Damon Edwards (R), Audrea Toal (R), Justin Knight (R), and Chris Bills (R).

Faulkner County’s $25 million road fund surplus will continue to build — and the people will not be heard.