Jackson County expected to approve budget despite deficit

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – Officials in Jackson County told Region 8 News Tuesday they hope to approve the budget for 2010 despite a deficit of $136,303.60. Judge Kerry Tharpe said justices unofficially voted in favor of the budget Monday morning during a special meeting. The slumping economy in Jackson County is one key factor in the deficit, according to Jim Cooper on the Quorum Court.

"Our problem in the past has been there's more outgoing than income. Our tax base is not there anymore like it was," said Cooper.

Cooper said fuel, paper and other products have risen in price over the last few years while the county's tax base has remained flat.

"You've got businesses that are coming into town. I mean, we've got businesses coming in, but you've got businesses that are leaving and it's more or less averaging itself out," said Cooper.

According to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, the department has trimmed $60,000 from its budget and cut one employee from the $933,930.00 budget. The county has also had to dip into its savings account.

"We need more jobs and we need to keep the jobs that we have," said Cooper. "If you spend more than you take in, you're going to have a deficit."

Jackson County trimmed $228,000 in deficit spending for 2010 by moving money from the circuit clerk's office and county treasurer. The circuit clerk's office gave $200,000 from its automation fund.

"We wanted to start out with a balanced budget but there's no way. All the department heads, all the departments cut drastic on their budget this year. They just couldn't cut enough," said Cooper.

The county treasurer's office said if deficit spending continues, then it will look at a $364,000 deficit in 2011.

If that spending continues, Cooper said the savings account will run out and services will be slashed.

"If they've (sheriff's office) got ten deputies, they may be down to 6 deputies. That's going to cut out part of their traveling in the county. They're not going to be able to get there as quick as they have been in the past," said Cooper. "You've got three road graders running, you may have to cut down to one and we don't want to do that. We don't want anybody to lose their job."

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