The Conway City Council passed a resolution Tuesday to register its objection to a recent proposal from the Faulkner County Quorum Court to give the sheriff's office a larger slice of the county road sales tax fund -- at the expense of county roads.
Attached to the resolution was a petition signed by all 11 mayors of Faulkner County municipalities "strongly" opposing any reallocation of county road tax revenue.
"We all have partnered with the county on numerous projects," the petition read. "The loss of assistance to our cities would be a blow to road improvement efforts."
Faulkner County Justice of the Peace Steve Goode proposed at the July 21 Quorum Court meeting that the 20-year-old 1% sales tax be applied in a 60/40 split in the sheriff's office's favor. It is currently split 50/50 between the two entities.
The Quorum Court would have to pass a resolution to take the proposal before voters in the Nov. 3 general election. Jim Baker, county judge of Faulkner County, said Tuesday that he believes the issue will be decided at the Quorum Court's next regular meeting, which is Tuesday.
"I'm opposed to it," Baker said. "This is something the road department depends on. We've worked with the state on numerous projects, and we've gotten our roads about 50% improved. Roads are the best economic development tool we have."
Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry said at Tuesday's council meeting that he hopes to find some common ground on the issue.
According to the city's resolution, the "quality of the roads and infrastructure in Faulkner County play a critical part in the economic vitality, quality of life, and safety of the citizens of Conway and Faulkner County."
Diverting voter-approved sales tax dollars to the sheriff's office could "dramatically impact Conway and Faulkner County's ability to attract matching funds from state and federal sources and could limit future economic development activity," according to the city resolution.
Castleberry said he is "in complete agreement" that Faulkner County Sheriff Tim Ryals and the sheriff's office needs some help, but he just does not think that taking it from the road fund "which is so vital to our city and our other towns throughout this county" is the right way to do it.
The sheriff's office is underfunded, Baker said, and needs money for technology improvement, training, equipment and additional deputies.
Last month, the Quorum Court allocated $90,000 in funding to design the preliminary phase of a maximum-security jail and gave the sheriff's office the go-ahead to hire six new deputies through a U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services grant.
The grant funding would provide 75% or $741,267 of the amount needed to hire the six new deputies over a three-year period. The county will cover the remaining $247,089.
Ryals told the Quorum Court last month that the sheriff's deputies are overworked and not able to take time off for holidays or vacation.