Fri November 17, 2023

By Jeff Smithpeters

Hempstead County Quorum Court passes ordinances for end-of-year bonuses as well as 2024 budget
The Hempstead County Quorum Court in its regular November meeting yesterday, which is available for viewing below this story, passed a series of ordinances pertaining to movement of and use of funds, including the 2024 budget and paying for recent repairs at the county jail. 

The meeting was something of a marathon for County Clerk Karen Smith, who had the task of reading the sometimes lengthy ordinances aloud before they were each voted on. 

The meeting was brought into session by County Judge Jerry Crane at 5:30 p.m. in the large courtroom in the Hempstead County Courthouse. Justice of the Peace Jessie Henry said the invocation, then the pledge of allegiance was said by all in the room. The approval of the minutes from the October regular meeting was unanimous. 

There being no Old Business, Judge Crane proceeded to consideration of the first of six ordinances that would be approved during the meeting. 

The first of these was a vote to levy taxes real and personal for 2023 collected in 2024 “for county general, county road, county library, all school districts and all municipalities.” 

The second moved $100,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act to the jail to cover the plumbing repairs that have taken place at the jail.  

The third appropriates “a check we received for the Association of Arkansas Counties Auto Records System Grant,” to cover about $50,400 in expenses related to keeping auto records and covering computer software and support. 

The fourth, another appropriations ordinance, amends the 2023 budget to move $15,277.25 from  the Voluntary Tax/Deputy Salary Fund to County General Fund and the Jail Fund to make additional appropriations and for other purposes. 

The fifth amends the operating budget for 2023 to transfer $151,561.85 in funds from the Health Insurance Premiums fund (which is no longer used because the county no longer self-insures) to Various funds to make additional appropriations.  

This helps provide for bonuses to county employees based on tiers according to whether the employee is full-time or part-time and how long the employee has served the county. In the top tier, full-time and employed for six months, each individual employee will receive $1,000. Other bonuses will range between $50 for each month employed for part-timers who have not yet served six months to $100 each month for full-timers who have not served six months. 

The sixth ordinance adopts the appropriation for the 2024 budget. Sponsor Justice of the Peace Ed Darling said this budget is patterned after the 2023 budget. He said it would not support raises for county employees, but pointed to the previously approved ordinance as providing $151,561.85 in bonuses for the end of this year. Total appropriations for 2024 are projected at $5,141,324.26 with revenues projected at $5,151,598.70. 

Justice of the Peace Cherry Stewart asked about a tax being collected and provided to UAHT, which is shown in the 2024 budget, which she thought had been set to discontinue prior to now. She asked that this question be researched. 

Once these were approved, all unanimously, Bonnie Raff of the Daughters of the American Revolution read a speech on the declaration of November to be National American Heritage Month.  She also presented an art piece to County Judge Crane of a dream catcher. 

The JPs, after discussion, voted to move the regular meetings that occur within Central Standard Time to be moved one hour earlier to 4:30 p.m.  So the next regular meeting is set for Thursday, December 21st at 4:30 p.m. 

Before adjournment, Sheriff James I Singleton thanked those who had helped organize the recent Veterans Day parade, ceremony and Lions Club fish fry. He said these activities should occur every year.