Nevada Quorum Court Passes Budget, Bonuses for Themselves and New Trash Collection Fee

The Nevada County Quorum Court passed the 2020 County Budget and a handful of ordinances and resolutions with little fanfare and in complete agreement in their December meeting but there was dissention when it came to voting to pay themselves a bonus and to establishing a $120 per year trash collection fee for county residents. The Court voted 5-4 to approve paying themselves a $650 bonus and 4-4, with a tie-breaking vote from County Judge Mark Glass, to implement a $120 fee for county residents for their trash pick-up.

Nevada County 2020 Budget (Ordinance 0-19-14)
After hashing out the numbers in multiple meetings to draw up a budget for next year, the final 2020 budget was brought up for approval by the Quorum Court and it passed unanimously with little new discussion.

After reviewing a few of the numbers, District 5 J.P. Bob Cummings told the Quorum Court that money is very tight for the county. Cummings encouraged all the county employees to avoid spending more than they absolutely have to keep everything running as smoothly and efficiently as possible and to avoid any budgetary issues in 2020. He advised the court that projections for the 2020 Census currently are that Nevada County will show to have lost around 7000 residents, which will impact certain funds the county receives.

Included in the budget is a $1/hour raise for dispatchers and jailers. Cummings said that Sheriff Danny Martin approached them about a $2/hour raise to help prevent losing employees to Hempstead County but that the county can only budget in half that amount for 2020 at this time. Cummings said that they can amend it at any time and he knows the Quorum Court will have to amend it at some point this year.

A copy of the budget is kept on file in the County Clerk’s office and is available to anyone who wants to see it or make copies of it.

You can view the budget totals for each department compared to 2019 and the anticipated revenue to cover the budgeted items by click THIS LINK.

Employee Bonuses
The Quorum Court agreed to pay out bonuses to county employees this year. The Court agreed to bonuses amounting to $650 for full-time and $350 for part-time. Bonuses are paid out of the 2019 budget.

Quorum Court Bonuses
In a contentious 5-4 vote, the Quorum Court passed bonuses for themselves as well. Once business on the employee bonuses was concluded, District 2 J.P. Willie Wilson inquired about whether there was enough money available for the J.P.’s on the Quorum Court to get the same bonuses as full-time employees as well. The total, $2995, was apparently available and Wilson proposed that he and the other J.P.’s each receive a $650 bonus.

District 3 P.P. Patricia Grimes told Wilson that they “didn’t deserve it” and they weren’t the ones out working for the county every day.

Wilson responded, “Ok. That’s my motion.”

After some back-and-forth among the J.P.’s, District 6 J.P. Herbert Coleman seconded Wilson’s motion, which brought it to a vote.

According to one J.P., a quorum was called during one of the budget meetings and the bonuses for J.P.’s was proposed but was voted down by those at the meeting.

Wilson’s motion was more successful. With five J.P.’s (Coleman, Cummings, Johnson, Pruitt and Wilson) voting for the bonuses and only four (Stockton, Fore, Bailey and Grimes) voting against it, the J.P.’s will receive their $650 bonuses.

Grimes requested a check not be written for her and the money instead be left in the general fund.

Solid Waste Rate Ordinance 2019-17
Judge Mark Glass proposed and cast the tie-breaking vote for the implementation of a fee of $120 per year for county residences for trash collection.

Glass said that he hates to do it and wishes that it wasn’t necessary but that the Solid Waste Department is struggling and costs for pick up and disposal of household waste is going to double for the county in the next two years.

Glass said the county has been paying Upper Southwest Arkansas Solid Waste Management District $100 for every round trip they make to haul the county’s trash to the Class 1 landfill near Nashville. Glass said there are at least one trip each day and often more and that he’s been informed that the price will go up to $150 for 2020 and to $200 for 2021.

Nevada County does have a Class 4 landfill, but a Class 1 is required for disposing of household rubbish. The Upper Southwest Arkansas Solid Waste Management District was established by the state of Arkansas to provide the Class 1 for counties and municipalities in the region of the state.

Glass estimated that there are around 1000 households, which would translate into approximately and additional $120,000 for the county’s Solid Waste Department. Everyone but commercial businesses, churches, deer camps and renters will be responsible for the fee. Landlords will be responsible for paying, which will likely end up in increased rent costs.

Glass said that something has to be done for the Solid Waste to continue to operate. He said that failure to pass the ordinance would likely see the already struggling department $60,000 or more in the red in the next year.

During discussion on the issue, it was mentioned that a $75 fee had been originally discussed but that it wasn’t sufficient to cover costs.

There was a brief discussion on offering a discounted price to those who pay the total outright and also lowering it from $120 per year to $100 per year.

In the end, it was decided that they don’t want to have to come back and ask for more from the county’s residents later, so a motion was made and seconded to implement the $120 per year fee. The fee would have to be paid at the County Collector’s Office annually. Those who don’t pay would be put on a list and failure to pay will be treated the same as failing to pay property taxes.

J.P. Brenda Stockton left the meeting during the discussion and was not in the room when the vote was taken, though she briefly returned following the vote to retrieve something she apparently left behind.

The remaining J.P.’s were evenly split 4-4 with Cummings, Bailey, Johnson and Pruitt all voting to approve the ordinance and Coleman, Fore, Grimes and Wilson voting against the ordinance.

The tied vote opened the door for County Judge Mark Glass to cast a tie-breaking vote to pass the ordinance, putting the wheels in motion to charge and collect the $120 trash collection fee from residents next year.

Motor Fuel Tax Fund (Ordinance 2019-13)
The Quorum Court unanimously approved and ordinance to allow the Treasurer to set up an Additional Motor Fuel Tax Fund. The fund is required due to the passing of Act 416 of 2019 earlier this year which will result in the state sending turnback money from an increase in various diesel fuels. The tax increases wholesale tax by $0.03 and retail by $0.06.

Courthouse Renovation Grant Resolution (R-19-10)
The Quorum Court unanimously approved a resolution to allow the Judge to seek an additional $4,359 grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The grant is a 100% grant, meaning the county doesn’t have to come out of pocket for any of the expenses. The additional money is to cover the cost of renovating the area around the Judge’s bench, which was not included in the initial figures for the grant, which the county has already applied for. The grant money will be used to purchase and install new carpet, padded seating and trim in the courtroom.

Salary Breakdown (Ordinance 0-19-15)
Also unanimously passed was an ordinance setting out the salaries for county employees in the 2020 budget. Nevada County has run into issues with State Auditors previously for not providing it.

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