HARRISBURG/PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – Prosecutor's offices throughout the Region 8 viewing area have expressed interest in obtaining additional funding for 2010. Prosecutors say an increase in police officers and population are causing them to work larger case loads each month.
"Several years ago, they hired a lot more police officers, and it's just a trickledown effect. You have more officers, and you're going to have more officers on the streets. They're going to find more crime. It's going to get down to the court system, and it's all going to bottleneck, and that's what's happened," said Kimberly Dale, Greene County Deputy Prosecutor.
Dale said the Greene County Prosecutor's Office was approved for a $20,800 increase next year. The office operated 2009 on a $40,000 budget.
"At one time, it was a $750 amount that they had allocated us. I asked for that to be increased to $900 because we were still running short every month and they granted that request," said Dale. "Our salary has nothing to do with the county, and we are supervising people that are not based out of the same tax scheme as we are."
Poinsett County Prosecutor Marty Lilly has contacted the Poinsett County Quorum Court regarding an increase in funding. He told Region 8 News Tuesday that while his office hasn't handled more cases this year, they have closed more cases than in year's past.
"We have had a request from the prosecuting attorney. They are looking for a little bit extra money," said Poinsett County Judge Charles Nix. "A budget is only as good as your projections are, and we're trying to be realistic."
Nix said his county's budget looks to be flat compared to 2009. He anticipates slightly lower revenues from retail industries.
"One of the things we want to try to fit into this year's budget, if at all possible, is a three-percent raise. We're going to try to put that in there to see how it looks. We have not been able to do that in the last couple of years," said Nix. "Since we're one of those counties where people go to Jonesboro to shop and have appliances and those things delivered, and have the sales tax follow us, that probably helps smaller communities like ours."
A budget committee will meet December 8th to discuss next year's budget in Poinsett County. The county's prosecutor will find out if they will get the funding they requested.
Greene County is preparing for a slight decline.
"It bottomed out a little bit and some months were lower than this time last year, but we're flat now. Our income is a little bit lower than we expected, as far as collecting fines and things," said Greene County Judge Jesse Dollars. "We cut out about $140,000, so we come in lower for 2010 than we did in 2009."
Dollars said he was happy the prosecutor's office got the money they requested.
"We're going to have to still fudge a little bit here and there to make it work but we're going to make it work," said Dollars. "We brought it to the quorum court and made them aware of everything, and they passed it last November to go ahead and do the budget."
The prosecutor's office has been budgeted for a total of $65,000 in 2010.
"We'll give them a little more leg to run and get these things pushed through a little quicker, get the paperwork done a little faster. Hopefully we don't overload the court system and I don't think we will," said Dollars. "That's why we're willing to put the money in there, and that's why we didn't go to a full-time person. One we really couldn't afford to, but we knew we had to do something to try to take care of it."
Dale said her office disposes between 50 and 75 cases every month. Her goal is to stay on schedule.
"They help us be more efficient at that office. There's a lot of work that has to be done to make any case file a case file. There's a lot of copying. There's a lot of putting things together. There's a lot of data entry," said Dale. "When you take away three staff members in the office to generate 500 felony files and you bring it down to one and the case files are still increasing year by year and you still have that one person, it eventually bottlenecks, which is what happened in 2009."
"When you're processing that many files, there are a lot of copies. There's a lot of papers that have to be shuffled around and just since they've approved funding six weeks ago, I've already seen a drastic help that I've been able to get in that office until I can get someone in there on a regular part time basis," said Dale. "Either get them better staffed to where they can delegate more things and that's more of a county expense or maybe hire another part time prosecutor in that county."