Washington County Quorum Court Budget Battle November 10, 2011

by Christine Keller

A victory for conservatives and taxpayers happened last night at the Washington County Quorum Court! The court voted unanimously to lower the county millage rate from 4.4 to 3.9! We can be very grateful for the hard work of the conservatives on the quorum court who pushed for that. Why not take a minute to thank your jp for cutting taxes (contact info here)?
But, the issue of employee raises was not settled. There will be another budget committee meeting on this subject on Tuesday, November 15, at 4:45 p.m. in the quorum court room, 280 N. College Avenue Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701. While we understand the need to properly pay people for the work they do, there are different options to accomplish that. We also think it is necessary and possible to cut spending elsewhere to cover raises. While the county has some surplus now (the amount of surplus is debated), it would be foolish to spend it all. Every responsible government must keep a “rainy day fund” for true emergencies or an unexpected decrease in tax revenue, which is likely in a down economy such as we have now. At the budget meeting on Tuesday afternoon is where the discussion about the different options for paying employees will be had, and this is an important part of the budget process. Nothing becomes law until it is voted before the full quorum court at their regular meeting (the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m.).
Today, we asked Tom Lundstrum, conservative jp from Springdale, if he remembers the Washington County Quorum Court ever cutting spending. He answered that in his five years on the court, he has never seen a spending cut! Did any of you have to cut any of your personal spending in the past five years? We have! Why does our government at all levels get to pretend things are not difficult right now and continue spending as if there is no limit? Every successful small business must find creative ways to cut costs in order to survive. It is reasonable to expect the same from our county government. We think that desperate times require desperate measures, but very few, including jp’s on the quorum court, are willing to make the tough choices about spending cuts. We need to have that discussion rather than simply thinking more spending is the only option.
Readers of our email list may remember a budget battle last December in which certain conservative members of the quorum court proposed a budget that would actually cut spending by a measly four percent. All Democrats and some Republicans blocked even that small spending cut. Yet, most of the same people want to increase spending.
Most people are too busy with their lives to get involved in local government issues, but that is exactly how your freedoms disappear. The quorum court is the governing body for Washington County, with power to tax, spend, and pass ordinances that directly affect your life. The taxing and spending that is such a problem in Washington, D.C. is also a problem in Little Rock and Washington County. All four levels of government (federal, state, county, and city) are spending your money, raising taxes (generally), and regulating your life.
Your jp (justice of the peace) is your representative at the county level. Do you know who your jp is? If you’re not sure which district you are in, you may call the Washington County Elections Commission at (479) 444-1766. Find contact information for all jp’s here. You may contact all of them about issues that concern you at the county level. They work for you!
Some examples of issues the quorum court decides: the new animal shelter–construction/running~should you be required to microchip your dogs and cats?~zoning issues~roads~spending issues–should we pay cash for needed equipment or use credit? Could we possibly delay needed projects for a year or more until we can afford it rather than raising taxes/using debt? Those are the sorts of issues the court has had to decide this year. There are a few conservatives we can count on to stand against taxes and for cutting spending, and they need our encouragement, and they need reinforcements to be elected next time.
The jp term is 2 years, and they are all up for re-election in 2012. It is a part-time job that a working person could still do. Would you or someone you know be willing to serve? We actually have a much greater chance of effecting real change at the local level than at the state or national level. This is a great opportunity for patriots who are serious about cutting spending/taxes.