CommunityPolitics

Hempstead County Quorum Court approves budget change, hears of budget overruns, watches video promoting 1/4 cent Economic Development tax

The Hempstead County Quorum Court watches a video by SWARK.Today staffers promoting the 1/4 cent sales tax to raise proceeds for the county’s Economic Development Corporation.

The September regular meeting of the Hempstead County Quorum Court took place Thursday night and included the viewing by the County Judge and Justices of the Peace and all in attendance of a video. 

Commissioned from SWARK.Today by the Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation, the video is meant to promote the quarter cent sales tax on the November ballot in the county whose proceeds would go toward Economic Development. It will be used in presentations at open discussion town hall sessions in the county in which the tax will be discussed.

In addition, the court by unanimous vote approved an ordinance to amend the county’s Solid Waste budget to reflect an increase in projected revenue from $1.9 million to $2.6 million to address the need for two new garbage trucks. After reading the ordinance, which was sponsored by JP Ed Darling who heads the Quorum Court’s Budget Committee, County Clerk Karen Smith said, “[County Attorney] Jim Burke redid this ordinance, and it’s not for two new trucks. It’s the paying off the lease of one garbage truck.”

Darling said, “We slipped up in doing the budgeting. We did not catch the fact that this lease was going to go up in October [of this year], but there is funding available in solid waste to pay it off. This was a truck that we leased three years ago.”

Before moving to the next agenda item, Darling said increases in food costs and an increased number of inmates (the budget projected an average of 70, but this year it has been 100 to 105) in the jail had caused the Sheriff’s Office budget to exceed what was projected. “We need a base level of appropriation of $71,000, for to feed our fruit for the remainder of the year,” he said.

Inflation in fuel costs along with the increased number of inmates needing to be transported will call for an addition $14,000, Darling said. And cost overruns for medications will amount to another $10,000. The total $94,000 overbudget amount, Darling said, can be covered by funds from the jail booking fund, which is at $200,000.

An ordinance, therefore, is coming soon to the Court to move funds to address these shortfalls, Darling said.

Additional costs to be considered soon will pertain to a Road Department Dump Truck whose lease is expiring and the costs of repairing damages to roads affected by the spring and summer rains. “We’re looking at probably asking for another hundred thousand there.” Darling said, adding that American Rescue Plan funds meant to address lost revenue to the county could be used for this.

County Judge Jerry Crane said that because of a newly developed but less expensive and more durable road surfacing material, the road damage could be fixed for less of cost than in previous years. JP David Clayton described the material as finer and able to set “like concrete.”

The next agenda item concerned a newly-appointed judge asking for reimbursement for the use of their personal phone for county business. JP Darling said under current state regulations there was not a way for reimbursement to be paid for partial use of cellular service. To get this kind of reimbursement, the judge would need a phone that would be exclusively used for county business.

In the next item, Bonnie Raff of the John Cain Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution spoke in commemoration of the anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution. “In 1925, the DAR participant petitioned Congress to annually set aside September 17 through the 23rd to be dedicated as the observance of Constitution Week. The resolution was adopted by the US Congress and signed into law on August 2, 1956 by President Dwight David Eisenhower,” she said.

After that, Steve Harris with the Economic Development Corporation showed a ten-minute video, put together by staff members of SWARK.Today and narrated by April Lovette, making the case for the adoption of the quarter cent sales tax whose proceeds would help fund economic development incentives for the recruitment of industry and business to the county and the keeping of businesses presently here.

The Justices voiced praise for the video’s quality. It will be used in Town Hall meetings to set the context of the problem the 1/4 cent tax addresses and the ways the money raised can and cannot be used.

A motion for adjournment was seconded and passed, making the meeting just under 35 minutes long.

After the adjournment, Judge Crane told the attendees to expect a burn ban to be instituted for the county this Monday.

Hempstead County Quorum Court starts at 5:30 pm.

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