Quorum Court settles pay issue

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In a longer than usual agenda, the Poinsett County Quorum Court addressed issues of property reappraisals, crystal meth class action litigation and salaries for the District Judge and the various city's District Court clerks. Causing the most discussion was the latter.

The various cities in the county had met and agreed to raise the salary of Judge Steve Inboden to $82,500, half of which is paid by the cities with the remainder being paid by the county. To increase it to this much, the county's portion will be $2,529.15 a month for five months. The county will also pay $648.73 in retirement and Social Security benefits. The increase caused some discussion, but when Judge Doyle Hillis informed the court that the raise had been mandated by the state, objections died out.

The raises for the city clerks, however, were another matter. Obviously in anticipation of a possible controversy and to answer any questions, Tyronza Mayor Marion Bearden and Tyronza District Clerk Donna Wood were in attendance.

The raises for each city's District Court clerk was proposed as follows: Trumann from $10,555.78 to $14,400.48; Marked Tree from $10,555.78 to $10,030.69; Harrisburg from $10,555.78 to $15,672.78; Lepanto from $6,127.01 to $13,147.94; and Tyronza from $8,956.10 to $11,000.

Justice Johnny Johnson questioned the amount of cases each city handles.

"Do we really need that many clerks?" Johnson asked.

"I can't understand why Tyronza's getting so much," Hillis said. "We're paying them nearly as much as we are Harrisburg and Trumann."

"We had nearly 2000 cases last year," Wood responded.

"How many of them were state cases?" Hillis asked.

Wood admitted not many of those cases were state cases, but then Bearden pointed out that the court collects fines for the state which benefit the county.

"We've tried to work with the Quorum Court in the past," Bearden said. "But none of the court seemed to want to work with us. We have to pay fines to the county and that money is used for libraries and other costs."

"We've been paying for two years," Hillis said. "But we have no choice on this."

"Well, we're going to have to get some additional money from somewhere," Johnson said.

The court passed the issue unanimously with Justices J.C. Carter of Marked Tree and Randy Jones of Harrisburg absent.

Possibly answering Johnson's comment were the presentations by Sheriff Larry Mills and Assessor Johnny Rye.

"We received information for Mike Rainwater's law firm in Little Rock about a class action law suit against manufactures of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine," Mills said. "These are two of the main ingredients of crystal meth."

Mills went on to explain how Independence County began the litigation and as of Friday, 19 of 75 counties have joined the suit.

"This is one of those situations where if we don't win, we don't pay," Mills added.

The measure was passed unanimously.

Rye came before the court to apprise them of the reappraisal efforts of his office.

"We have finished all the reappraisals," Rye said. "We'll be sending out letters Friday to let everyone know what's going on."

Rye said the average increase for the county was 11%, but that Amendment 79 limited homestead properties to a 5% increase and other properties to 10%.

"Also the homestead credit will go up $50.00 to $350.00," Rye added. "And in some cases, due to the freezes on the elderly and disabled, their taxes can actually go down."

Rye said anyone with questions concerning their appraisal should call his office.

The justices also:

* Unanimously passed a measure to allot the county's share for the new Circuit Judge seat.

* Received a report about the voting machine maintenance contract the voting commission had approved.

* Hillis informed the court of the need for a new road grader.

* Frank Kraft was introduced as the new OEMS director.

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