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The Lonoke County sheriff's office took down its website last week, citing stress on the county's limited budget.

A Facebook post from the sheriff's office Wednesday announcing that the website was going dark attracted puzzled comments from residents.

Some suggested starting a crowdfunding effort to support the sheriff's office financially. In fact, someone had already created a GoFundMe page for the department last month, although it has managed to raise only $10 out of a $20,000 goal.

Others commented with opinions on what ought to be done to shore up the county's finances.

The Facebook announcement from the sheriff's office described a planned transition to a more cost-friendly website while acknowledging "it is going to take some time to get it up and running."

The sheriff's office encouraged residents seeking information regarding different divisions previously listed on the website -- including the county jail, dispatch center and records offices -- to call specific phone numbers instead.

As of Friday, the homepage of the sheriff's website was covered with an "under construction" banner, and the individual pages returned a 404 error.

Sheriff's office spokesman Capt. David Bufford said Thursday that the department had been exploring a new website for months for cost reasons.

"Even if the funding was there, we're always looking for cheaper avenues, because it's tax money that we're using, right?" Bufford said.

He said he did not know when a new website might go online.

The budget of the sheriff's office has been strained because the department has no dedicated source of tax revenue, Bufford said. The office's funding is sourced entirely from the county's general fund, he said.

"And when the general fund is down, which it is now, there's no funding for us," Bufford said.

He noted that one of the recent repercussions for the sheriff's office has been that it cannot fill several job openings at the county jail. Additionally, patrols have been cut back, he said.

Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley supports a 1% sales tax increase to fund the department, television station KATV reported last month.

County Treasurer Patti Weathers said the county's revenue is down in large part because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Because public offices have been closed, some people have been unable to pay their taxes in person, and they haven't necessarily done so by mail.

"Why, I don't know, but ... that's what we've seen as a rule of thumb," Weathers said Wednesday.

Colleagues in other counties have indicated their revenue has decreased too, Weathers said.

"This is statewide," she said. "This is not just one county."

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