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County officials will present tentative budgets for the upcoming fiscal year to the Union County Quorum Court’s Finance Committee this afternoon in a meeting open to the public in the third-floor conference room at the Union County Courthouse.

The committee will review the proposed budgets to eventually create the FY2020 budget.

Finance committee chairman Mike Dumas said he does not foresee any major differences between the FY2020 budget and the current one. He said revenues are likely down this year, but not by much.

“It looks like our total budget is going to be just a few thousand dollars under our anticipated revenues. The total county budget will be right at $21 million,” Dumas said. “That includes sheriff, jail, county general, courthouse, road department, sanitation department – all those things totaling right at $21 million.”

At today’s meeting, officials and representatives from county offices will have the opportunity to discuss with the committee any planned, contingent and proposed expenditures for next year. Dumas said he knows some departments do have large proposals, though no major projects are planned for next year.

“Two or three budgets have some items that probably the JPs (Justices of the Peace) are going to talk about,” he said. “Some of the officials will have to justify the increases they’ve put in their budget that are more than just the regular increases you have for telephone, utilities – those things that are going to increase every year with the cost of living.”

Tax collection will continue until Oct. 15, two days before the next meeting of the Quorum Court. Dumas said the committee hopes to have a budget mapped out by the end of the meeting that they will then be able to recommend to the full Quorum Court on Oct. 17.

From there, the Quorum Court will discuss and consider the Finance Committee’s recommendation. Dumas said he does not wish to see the budget approved at next week’s meeting; instead, he wants JPs to take a month to consider it.

“My plans are to complete the budget, have a budget together to present to the JPs at the October Quorum Court meeting for them to look at and review for themselves, let them see how the taxpayers’ dollars are going to be spent in each department and answer any questions they may have … and then be ready in November to vote on the budget, and hopefully, we’ll approve it,” Dumas said.

Total revenues for FY2019 should be calculated by the time the Quorum Court meets in November, Dumas said. Arkansas code requires that county budgets for the upcoming fiscal year be completed and approved before the end of November.

Once the budget has been approved and all FY2020 funds accounted for, the Quorum Court will be able to consider raises and bonuses for county employees. County employees receive a bonus almost every year, but raises are harder to come by, Dumas said.

“If they start talking about a pay increase, we’ll certainly have to sharpen our pencil for that,” he said. “But certainly we could look at giving a bonus, which the county does almost every year anyway. I think we’ll be in a position to do that again this year.”

Any extra monetary benefits for employees will depend on how much, if any, money remains after all the county departments are budgeted for. Last year, employees were eligible for bonuses of up to $1,000 depending on the length of their employment.

The budget meeting will be held at the Union County Courthouse in the third-floor Quorum Court room starting at 11 a.m., with officials arriving to discuss their budgets at 1 p.m.

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or cbutler@eldoradonews.com.

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