Leader Blues

Friday, November 21, 2008

TOP STORY > >Lonoke QC approves spending $6M in ’09

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

The Lonoke County Quorum Court Thursday night approved a $6,086,499 general fund 2009 budget, which includes an across-the-board 4 percent pay hike for county employees.

That was an increase from a year ago which also includes one new position in the county clerk’s office and two new deputies in the sheriff’s office. It also includes a full-year’s pay for the third circuit judge’s position and rent and utilities for the third courtroom.

In addition to the county general fund, the quorum court approved special fund budgets that include $4.25 million for the road and bridge department; $1 million for the county library; $577,000 for solid waste management; $371,000 for emergency 911 service; $219,000 for county recorder; $193,000 for the regional library; $145,000 for the jail general improvement fund, and $123,000 for jail maintenance.

County Judge Charlie Troutman said the revenues and the budget were a little larger than last year, but couldn’t say what last year’s budget was.

He said revenues this year — even late this year — were good. “I don’t have a crystal ball,” said Troutman.

“Today the county’s in good shape. In 12 months I hope I can say the same,” he said.

The Quorum Court unanimously approved a revised personnel policy, which was not as far-reaching as personnel policy committee chairman Jeanette Minton had once hoped.

The policy changed starting salaries in the sheriff’s office administrative jobs, dropping them to the starting salary of other clerks.

It also reinforced the need for jobs — other than deputy jobs — must be advertised for two weeks before filling them.

Minton tried earlier this year to get the county to commission a job evaluation and salary administration program, which would have renamed and restructured some jobs according to duties and then suggested salaries for those positions that would be competitive with similar jobs in neighboring counties, both in government and private industry.

It would have cost more than $30,000 but should attract quality employees and keep them from defecting to similar, higher paying jobs elsewhere.

In other business, Assessor Jerry Adams announced that the Cabot branch of the assessor’s office had moved into new quarters at 1604 S. Pine St.

The court voted 11-1 to add CASA, the child court advocacy group, to the county’s voluntary tax check off, which includes other nonprofit corporations.

Quorum Court member Alexis Malham voted against the measure, as she does every time the court renews or adds to the voluntary tax, because the state has told the county that it is unconstitutional.

Quorum Court member Larry Odom reported the county is making progress in efforts to buy the rest of the block where the county jail is located. Construction on the new jail could be started next year.

A free meal will be served at the Lonoke Community Center from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving, according to Quorum Court member Virgil Turner.