Rye visits Tribune for voter help

Friday, March 15, 2002

Tribune News Staff

Poinsett County's top taxman is asking for support from county residents on several key issues that legislators will face in the 2003 Arkansas General Assembly. In a visit to the Tri-City Tribune Monday morning, Tax Assessor Johnny Rye, Jr. told the news staff of the Tribune about efforts to recoup monies for the Poinsett County Jail, reforming certain aspects of county government, and discussed the county budget in general.

Rye stated that the monies for the county jail, which helps fund the storage of prisoners, is limited due to a lack of funding statewide for monies that go to county jails. Rye says that $3.5 million is owed statewide by the Arkansas Department of Corrections to county sheriff's offices, of which $85,000 is owed to the Poinsett County Jail from last year for housing non-county prisoners at the Poinsett County Detention Center.

Also, Rye states that the lack of funding is due to a reduction in the amount spent on housing state prisoners in county jails. To this, Rye says, "We need to push our legislators (in the 2003 General Assembly) to fund reimbursements for lost revenue to counties." Rye said that the situation was created by poor planning and a poor economy, which affected the turnback money and money for corrections. Rye also states that the county budget is pretty much set as for funding sources.

The budget is funded by a 1-cent sales tax (making up 39% of funds); state turnback monies for roads and other county services (which is set strictly for road use); and property assessments (making up 35% of funds.)

The sales tax goes into the county general fund, which pays for the operation of essential services.

As for assessments, the County Treasurer, County Collector, and County Tax Assessor are responsible for collecting monies through property assessments. Overall, Rye says that he is not preaching doom and gloom over any loss and added that assessment amounts are expected to be up eight percent next year, which could create a 3% increase in revenue in that category next year.

Rye also spoke about his trip to Little Rock in February to discuss these issues with the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC).

During the 2001-02 Legislative Tour at the Arkansas State Capitol, Rye and others who are on the Legislative Committee received a report on possible reforms to county governments and general legislation that will affect counties throughout the state. As for general legislation, the group is in favor of looking at: (1) FOIA Reform; (2) Repeal of Uniform Unclaimed Property Act as it pertains to local government; (3) Usage of a part of Real Property Tax Rebate Sales Tax surpluses, if any, for legitimate county purposes; (4) Internet Sales Tax; (5) No More Unfunded Mandates; (6) Legislation allowing counties to participate in the state's health insurance pool; (7) extending or eliminating term limits; (8)Line-item in state budget for prisoner reimbursement to counties; and (9) four year terms for county officials.

As for county judges, the group suggests legislation allowing delinquent garbage fees to be placed on personal and real estate tax bills.

As for county clerks, the group suggests that legislation should be drafted to require the state to pay for 100% of the costs of the primary election. As for assessors, the group asks for legislation making the five-year reappraisal an option instead of a mandate.

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