Crawford County Election Commission runs out of money

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

The Crawford County Quorum Court will look for additional funding for the Crawford County Election Commission after the commission ran out of money following the recent primary runoff election in May.

According to Election Commissioner Bill Taylor, the problem came about not as a result of how the commission spent its budget, but at how the Quorum Court funded the commission.

"They cut the Election Commission's budget," he said, referring to the Quorum Court's attempts at the end of 2013 to balance its budget.

In doing so, the budget for the Election Commission was reduced from an average during gubernatorial and presidential election years of $140,000 to $150,000 down to $90,000.

Any reimbursements the county receives from the Secretary of State's office for conducting elections now instead of going back to the Election Commission instead goes to the county's general fund.

"They anticipated revenue from the state," Taylor said. "It's not been anticipated revenue until this year. Now it comes back to county general. They did it this year to balance the budget."

He said an appropriations ordinance was needed to move funds for Election Commission use to make it through the upcoming school board elections, general election and potential general runoff election. The appropriations ordinance may come to the Court before the Secretary of State's office in Little Rock remits reimbursements to the county for the most recent elections.

Taylor said the county would submit reimbursements to the Secretary of State's office tied to the primary election for about $50,000 in costs. The state has already reimbursed the county for nearly $20,000 in election costs, meaning there would be about another $30,000 waiting to be returned to the county’s general fund. Taylor said the $30,000 could arrive back to the county by September, though he was unsure of an exact date and said it could always change.

County Judge John Hall told the Court that while the funding may come out of county general before reimbursement arrives, "it all comes out of the same pot."

No action was taken on the specific appropriations request from the Election Commission, though Taylor said the funding would need to be in place in time for the remaining elections later this year.

Update: Laura Labay, spokeswoman for Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin, said in a telephone call Tuesday (July 22) that the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissions reimburses election costs, not the Secretary of State's office.

In other business, the Court approved a resolution authorizing Hall to apply for a grant to support the Rural Fire District One in the amount of $48,325. The grant would fund the purchase of new extrication equipment at the fire department under the GIF Fire Protection Grant.

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The Court also approved an an appropriations ordinance that amended the FY 2014 Budget for the county, reflecting several contracts tied to construction of the new county jail approved by voters in May. Sales tax revenues have not yet started flowing for the project and Hall said the county was not allowed to incur debt until August.

The new jail will be constructed on Alma Highway/U.S. Highway 64 just outside of Van Buren at a cost of $20 million. It will house the jail, the sheriff's office, 911 center and a courtroom. No date has yet been set for completion, though a representative of Stephens Inc – the financial services company handling the issuance of construction bonds for the project – said the project should be complete by September 2017.

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