story by Aric Mitchell
The Sebastian County Quorum Court brought the yearlong funding debate to an end Tuesday night (Nov. 15), voting to approve an ordinance for the enterprise software initiative that attempts to bring together multiple county departments under one collective umbrella for computer operations.
The program, for which $1 million was originally earmarked, grew to $1.8 million by the time all was said and done, raising several eyebrows from court members. Of primary concern was the fact the software would not be as all encompassing as was originally thought.
According to literature provided from the Judge’s Office on Nov. 3, “The iSeries hardware platform (current system) will continue to support website, e-mail and calendaring, imaging and jury operations while the new software is being installed and brought online. Over time each of these areas will be evaluated for phasing out or modification. However, ongoing operations require these systems to be maintained.”
Quorum Court member Linda Murry was one of the voices of opposition, telling The City Wire earlier this month, “We needed to have been given options. That’s what I think would have been best. We only saw one bid (from New World Systems). If we had been included from the beginning (in the planning), then a request for this much ($1.8 million) may have made more sense.”
Murry also noted that Benton and Washington Counties were used as the templates when they are “one and a half to two times our size,” stating that “Washington County has around 1,375 employees. We have about 350. We should be looking to some of the smaller counties—the ones that don’t have $2 million to spare—to see how they’re handling system upgrades.”
In October, only seven court members showed interest in moving forward with the initiative. The ordinance required a two-thirds majority for approval. Tuesday night, Murry was the only one to abstain, while 11 voted to approve. Shawn Weidman was not in attendance.
Of the $1,835,525 appropriation, the county treasurer will transfer $1 million from the General Fund Capital Reserve 114; $470,000 from the Treasurer Automation Fund 109; $60,000 from the County Road Fund 202; $40,000 from the Greenwood District Court Automation Fund 126; $35,000 from the Greenwood District Court Fund 108; and $32,187 from the Collector Automation Fund 120. In addition to these transfers, $112,932 will be released from General Fund Computer Reserve and $85,406 from General Fund Imaging Reserve.
A second part of the same ordinance will contribute $16,000 to support a parking lot for the Courts Building. The original amount of $117,000 was appropriated in Ordinance 2009-30 on Dec. 15, 2009. Eighty thousand dollars were paid into the Registry of the Court in 2010. The $16,000 remainder for 2011 will complete the final land purchase.
In other news from the regularly scheduled meeting, Sebastian County’s contracted reappraisal company TASC made a presentation to the quorum court for a contract amendment to their provided services for identification and assessment of oil and gas personal property. The contract’s goal is to provide more accurate personal property assessments.
Page Kutait, president of TASC, estimates that given the county’s size, property values of $70 million to $100 million are awaiting discovery. The move has met with the approval of all county school superintendents, who could see an increase in tax revenue of around $1 million to be divided by the current millage rates among all their districts.
County Assessor Becky Yandell estimated that current tax revenues are around $36 million, though exact figures were not available at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The quorum court will meet again Thursday at 6 p.m. Topic of discussion will regard the review of new positions.