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story.lead_photo.caption The Washington County Courthouse in Fayetteville. - Photo by Andy Shupe

FAYETTEVILLE -- Justices of the peace approved the last budget increase requests -- leaving the $5 million gap between expenditures and revenue -- during the last special Washington County Finance and Budget Committee on Tuesday.

A budget must be approved by the end of December. Justices of the peace are grappling with a $68 million budget for next year that spends more money than the county expects to take in.

The budget is also higher than last year by about $2 million, records show.

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On Tuesday, the committee approved increase requests from the prosecuting attorney, county judge, juvenile court and assessor.

The committee approved the Road Department needs for new equipment, including rollers, chip spreader beds, wash plant, small track hoe and service truck. The request came to $584,425, according to records.

The committee also approved a full-time victim assistant position for the Prosecutor's Office, turning a part-time intake officer position into a full-time position for the juvenile court, buying a vehicle and hiring a field appraiser for the assessor.

Most of the assessor's requests are covered by school tax revenue, Assessor Russell Hill said.

The committee didn't discuss ways to increase revenue but did talk about possible cuts. A motion to cut $100,000 from Ozark Regional Transit's $125,000 budget was put off until next month. Representatives for Ozark Regional weren't at the meeting. The item wasn't on the agenda.

Several departments have cut their budgets for next year, but it wasn't enough to offset the requests, records show. For example, County Judge Joseph Wood cut about $820,000 from his budget, including a 9 percent reduction to the animal shelter, he said.

Justices of the peace must consider ways to beef up revenue, including whether to raise the property tax rate or change how a sales tax is distributed between the Road Department and General funds, said Justice of the Peace Eva Madison, a Democrat representing northeastern Fayetteville and chairwoman.

"You need to think through your willingness and beliefs of a millage increase," Madison said. "I don't think we can finalize the budget without that discussion."

The next meeting is planned at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 7, at the courthouse.

NW News on 10/25/2017

Print Headline: Quorum Court mulls final budget increases

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