Craighead County Quorum Court approves $30.2 million 2016 budget

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 249 views 

In the likely last meeting for 2015, Craighead County justices approved a $30.226 million budget with most of the discussion centering around expenditures. Justices voted 12-0, with one abstaining, to give the go ahead for the budget, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2016.

Budget committee chairman Ken Stacks said the budget was the blueprint created after several meetings at the courthouse annex. While the budget includes no new hires, employees will get a 3% raise next year. The raises are expected to cost about $300,000 in next year’s budget.

Stacks noted while the committee wanted to fund everything, it was impossible to do so.

“We only approved needs, not wants,” Stacks said.

The budget includes $465,706 set aside for the county election commission to operate the 2016 elections in the county.

At least half of the $16.2 million ($8.1 million) set aside in appropriated funding will help to fund the county jail and the sheriff’s department. The budget also sets aside $13.962 million for capital and special revenues, with $7.138 million of the money going into the county road department.

Stacks said the committee looked at the entire salary structure, including a proposal from County Clerk Kade Holliday earlier this year. Holliday’s proposal looked at the salaries of other counties in Arkansas the size of Craighead County, Stacks said. The proposal looked at elected officials, chief deputies and county employee salaries.

“We pay well compared to other counties, but it showed us lacking in the chief deputy,” Stacks said.

Justice Billie Sue Hoggard asked if the county could look at tenure in providing raises and finding the savings to pay for it. Justice Garry Meadows, who abstained from voting on the budget, said the 3% raise was the wrong approach.

“I am very disappointed in giving the 3% raise,” Meadows said, noting the raise rewards everyone no matter how they do their job.

Meadows said he would have supported a 2% raise, then give the chief deputies a 1% raise.

Justice Josh Longmire also asked county officials to look at renegotiating county contracts, including telephone and utility service.

“I was 4 years old the last time we negotiated the telephone contract in this county,” Longmire said.

The county’s finance committee voted Monday to ask County Judge Ed Hill to look at the utility issue, especially the county’s contract with Jonesboro City Water and Light, to find possible savings. The issue will be brought up at the court’s Dec. 28 meeting.

A copy of the 2016 budget can be found at the bottom left corner of the county’s website.