Sebastian County officials review 2015 budget shortfall, Whirlpool lawsuit

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 77 views 

Budget projections, Whirlpool, the 2015 Personnel Project, and a resolution approving ArcBest Corporation for the Tax Back Program were among the highlights of the Sebastian County Quorum Court’s inaugural meeting for 2015 on Tuesday (Jan. 27).

Sebastian County Judge David Hudson started off with a review of 2015 budget projections. The county finished 2014 with a surplus of $462,997 with revenues ($22.695 million) outpacing expenditures ($22.232 million). The 2015 adopted budget plans for a shortfall of $2.219 million, but Hudson noted that these are based on conservative projections for revenues and expenditures.

Expanding on this, he provided a breakdown of adopted budgets versus actual budgets for 2009 through 2014.

Each year, the actual budget always ended with a surplus with the exception of 2012. That year, the county saw a deficit of $975,130. However, 2009 had a surplus of $1.1 million; 2010, a surplus of $1.2 million; 2011, a surplus of $2.2 million; and 2013, a surplus of $1.4 million.

On the topic of Whirlpool, Sebastian County Tax Assessor Becky Yandell confirmed that the county will be included as plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Whirlpool over the stability of a toxic plume of potentially cancer-causing trichloroethylene (TCE) that caused the county to slash property values for property owners in the area.

As a result, Yandell claims, Whirlpool owes the county back taxes on what those properties would have been worth had the environmental hazard not been introduced. Once cleanup of the affected areas can be confirmed, Yandell said the county would start raising those property values again.

Also Tuesday night, the quorum court approved a $9,900 software license renewal to complete the 2015 Personnel Project by June.

Personnel Project updates will be given on a monthly basis throughout 2015 until completion. Judge Hudson previewed the issues this project will detail in the coming months. These include the following:
• Which markets Sebastian County personnel will be compared to on salary surveys — the Fort Smith labor market, counties of similar size and circumstance to Sebastian County, etc.;

• Frequency of salary range updates;

• Whether key position salaries should be set as market-based pay for minimum salaries based upon duties and responsibilities;

• Merit and/or cost-of-living increases; and

• Other policies and procedures needed to maintain the system and stay current to other markets.

Finally, the court unanimously approved ArcBest Corporation for the Tax Back Program. The measure is a formality in providing state incentives to assist in a $30 million expansion of the ArcBest corporate presence in Fort Smith. That expansion is expected to add just under 1,000 jobs.

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