Spring 2017 County Lines

Page 1

The Official Publication of the Association of Arkansas Counties

County Lines Spring 2017

Cover Story

Relief Recovery Resilience

Page 38

AAC Conference Page 26

New board members Page 40

NACo Special Report Page 52

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In This Issue st o

Inside Look


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Arkansas counties affected by spring flooding are proving their resiliency.

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Legislators address healthcare in extraordinary session......................................11 49th Annual AAC Conference registration information.........................................26 County officials meet for legislative recap...............................................................30 Preserving History.........................................................................................................32 Directory updates and corrections............................................................................36 AAC hosts annual safety conference........................................................................44


Quorum Court body holds Saturday meeting..........................................................45 Collectors meet at DeGray Lake Resort...................................................................46 Little River County celebrates 150 years.................................................................48 Circuit clerks visit Capitol............................................................................................50 AA C

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AAC staff profiles: Holland Doran and Awni Filat....................................................51



Heart s for

The AA C learn board of more directo about rs the cou welcome d fou nty off r new icials Profiles me who by Ch repres mbers in ome risty 20 ent the L. Sm they boys want ith ir ass 17. Continu AAC Geronegrow up. to be poli Commun and Ho ociatio cem e Not lland icatio ns on reading Pula en or “I wat vestigate Hobbs. At ns Staff Doran 12 he ski Cou firemen whe the boa to though ched my death. nty knew rd. to dig I was sad, grandmo he wan Corone n Hob ther

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Coroners hold Aquatic Death course........................................................................47


Meet the four newest members of the AAC board of directors.


Servic e

into deat I was ted to r Wh bs has Afte like take her last grow en injoined r graduatih,” he said , ‘What deputie he was app n his staff is this breath, and s. Hickamthe U.S ng from . death?’ even 13 people.Now the ointed to during his I wan Pulaski the posi the fune Air Forc. Army and Lonoke tenure Hobbs ted County tion, as coro does not to the ral hom e Base in worked High Sch busy writ ner. coroner’he had only in Mo ool, coroner e side Haw resp ing coro Now s offic side wheof the busiaii. He begartuary AffaHobbs ducting the ner ond to e emp five He he is in irs at with fam day-to-d reports, calls muc n he lear ness. n his loys kansas previouslyhis fifth year ay ope issuing h anymor ned However career on “Peo ilies. rations death e. County,State Crimworked as as Pulaskimore about , he shifted Hobbs ple come of his certifica He stays in som a field County forensic e Lab tes, office my job said. “I love Hob and as etimes, , inve and mee conpersona having bs is acti chief deputyas a deputy stigator coroner. s. to ting lly.” help folk and they just on the served as ve in the coroner coroner for the Ars. I take it perswant to talk Hobbs legislativ vice pres Arkansas for Pulaski for Pula ski Corone onally. ,” Cou this yearwas app e and conident for thre rs’ Asso nty. I take ointed tinu , e and year ciat “Th to fill ing edu he cation s. He also ion, a vaca said. e importa said he feels committ sits “ho ncy on all for“They havence of the any your rule AAC tonored.” the AAC ees. Hob body board me covery bs also is that steps s and regu is incredib into cou lations. le,” Hob turenet, Agency chair of the The nty minister past mas(ARORA) Arkansa governm AAC has bs ent.” s Reg it board, ter iona Hob at St. Pau of his chai to have bs said his l Baptist Masonic Lodr of Inn l Organ ReChu ge, and er City “My a strong job can take rch Fuways staff, all support syst an emoin Little Rocan associat a stres of us, tion e k. em al — Hobbs sful time when toll, but it com someone uses his ,” he it help “I to es to s schoolsenjoy goin position said. childrentalk to. and talk g to thes to help , that high chil ’s aldrivingschool kids ing to thee high scho dren. Hobbspart becauseabout drivkids aboutols and thes e victim actually I lost ing. I’m safety, espe middle pass respond a son in the scenwas his a car ionate abocially to ed to acci and his e of theson, 18-yearthat ut acciden old Xav call, notdent,” he the “Th approach to help t. He said ier, unti knowin said. their at day I und g the l he ing the lowest staff han poin erstood the fam event chanarrived at dled me t [when my job, ilies he enco ged with ever ” he said a fam unte him ily mem Hob y family with care . “Peo rs. years. bs and his that com . And that ber dies ple are ]. I was at He has es ’s wife, 7 — and Cou through what . two two dau other sons rtney, haveour offic we try to My do e.” ghters — — Rye Quincy, been married 40 25, n, 19, and Judyand Cou eight th, 11. rtlon,

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201 7

NACo special report: Doing More with Less.............................................................52

Departments From the Director’s Desk............................................................................................... 7 President’s Perspective................................................................................................. 9 From the Governor........................................................................................................11 Attorney General Opinions..........................................................................................12 Research Corner...........................................................................................................14 Governmental Affairs...................................................................................................18 Legal Corner...................................................................................................................19 Seems to Me..................................................................................................................21 County Law Update.......................................................................................................23 Savings Times 2............................................................................................................25


Cover Notes: An aerial view of Northeast Arkansas flooding

(Photo by Randall Lee, Governor’s Office)

ore than eight inches of rain in early May caused rivers in Arkansas to rise, flooding homes and businesses and damaging crops. Among the hardest hit counties were Randolph, Clay, Lawrence, White and Prairie. Mandatory evacuations were issued in communities along the Black River in Northeast Arkansas, and National Guardsmen were dispatched to the area to aid with water rescue and transport missions. They worked alongside state and local agencies, as well as residents who volunteered to help those in need of food, shelter and transportation. Gov. Asa Hutchinson took an aerial tour of the devastated area. The severity of the damage led him to issue disaster declarations in 36 of Arkansas’ 75 counties. He also has requested an extension for replanting crops and housing aid. Still, by all accounts Arkansans are resilient in such situations. Turn to page 38 to read more. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017





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2017 June 14-16 Circuit Clerks Hotel Hot Springs & Spa, Hot Springs June 15-16 Coroners Wyndham, North Little Rock June 19-23 Assessors Hampton-Holiday Inn, Mt. Home/ASU “The Shield”

July 11-14 County Clerks Basin Park, Eureka Springs July 23-26 Sheriffs Embassy Suites, Rogers Aug. 9-11 AAC Conference Statehouse Convention Center, Little Rock

June 21-23 Collectors Winrock International, Petit Jean June 28-30 Judges Wyndham, North Little Rock


Association of Arkansas Counties

Calendar activities also are posted on our website:


Karan Skarda, ACE Program Coordinator kskarda@arcounties.org

Mark Whitmore, Chief Legal Counsel mwhitmore@arcounties.org

Josh Curtis, Governmental Affairs Director jcurtis@arcounties.org

Lindsey Bailey, Legal Counsel

1415 West Third Street Little Rock, AR 72201 (501) 372-7550 phone (501) 372-0611 fax www.arcounties.org


Christy L. Smith, Communications Director


Holland Doran, Communications Coordinator

Cindy Posey, Accountant

hdoran@arcounties.org cposey@arcounties.org

Mark Harrell, IT Manager mharrell@arcounties.org

Chris Villines, Executive Director cvillines@arcounties.org

Elizabeth Kellar, Executive Assistant ekellar@arcounties.org

Samantha Moore, Receptionist smoore@arcounties.org


Risk Management / Workers’ Compensation Debbie Norman, Risk Management & Insurance Director, Risk Mgmt Services dnorman@aacrms.com

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Mission Statement: The Association of Arkansas Counties


he Association of Arkansas Counties supports and promotes the idea that all elected officials must have the opportunity to act together in order to solve mutual problems as a unified group. To further this goal, the Association of Arkansas Counties is committed to providing a single source of cooperative support and information for all counties and county and district officials. The overall purpose of the Association of Arkansas Counties is to work for the improvement of county government in the state of Arkansas. The Association accomplishes this purpose by providing legislative representation, on-site assistance, general research, training, various publications and conferences to assist county officials in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of their office. Debbie Lakey, Workers’ Comp Claims Manager dlakey@aacrms.com Cathy Perry, Administrative Assist./Claims Analyst cperry@aacrms.com Kim Nash, Workers Comp Claims Adjuster knash@aacrms.com Renee Turner, Workers Comp Claims Examiner rturner@aacrms.com Riley Groover, Claims Analyst rgroover@aacrms.com Greg Hunt, Claims Analyst ghunt@aacrms.com Kim Mitchell, Administrative Assistant kmitchell@aacrms.com Brandy McAllister, RMS Counsel bmcallister@arcounties.org Becky Comet, Member Benefits Manager bcomet@arcounties.org Barry Burkett, Loss Control Specialist bburkett@aacrms.com Karen Bell, Administrative Assistant kbell@aacrms.com Ellen Wood, Admin. Assistant/Receptionist ewood@aacrms.com




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County Lines Magazine

County Lines is the official publication of the Association of Arkansas Counties. It is published quarterly. For advertising inquiries, subscriptions or other information relating to the magazine, please contact Christy L. Smith at 501.372.7550. Executive Director / Publisher Chris Villines Communications Director/ Managing Editor Christy L. Smith Communications Coordinator/ Editor Holland Doran

AAC Executive Board: Judy Beth Hutcherson – President Debbie Wise – Vice President Brandon Ellison – Secretary-Treasurer Sherry Bell Debra Buckner Ellen Foote Jeanne Andrews Brenda DeShields Jimmy Hart John Montgomery Gerone Hobbs Rhonda Cole Sandra Cawyer David Thompson Bill Hollenbeck Angela Hill Debbie Cross National Association of Counties (NACo) Board Affiliations Judy Beth Hutcherson: NACo board member. She is the Clark County Treasurer and president of the AAC Board of Directors.

Debbie Wise: NACo board member. She is the Randolph County Circuit Clerk, vice president of the AAC Board of Directors and chair of AAC’s Legislative Committee.

Ted Harden: Finance & Intergovernmental Affairs Steering Committee. He serves on the Jefferson County Quorum Court.

Kasey Summerville: Finance, Pensions & Intergovernmental Affairs Steering Committee. She is the Clark County Assessor.

David Hudson: Vice Chair of NACo’s Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is the Sebastian County Judge and member of the Rural Action Caucus Steering Committee.

Barry Hyde: Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is the Pulaski County Judge.


Tying a bow on legislative session

Director’s Desk


he bow has been neatly tied on the 91st General Assembly’s regular session, and the results will come as Arkansas unwraps new laws over the next two years. As with all sessions, there are surprises, there are unintended consequences both good and bad, and there are boatloads of promises and progression for our state. The speed limits on our interstates may now climb Chris Villines to 75 miles per hour, guns will be allowed in places AAC heretofore outlawed, you will now be able to present Executive Director your iPhone for an Arkansas Driver’s License check, and marijuana rules will be set across the state. Mixed in with all of this are a myriad of bills affecting county government, and as is usually the case your staff here at the Association of Arkansas Counties found itself in the middle of some 500 odd bills that we vetted, tracked and ultimately either supported, opposed or massaged to county approval. The process we follow is tried and true, and it all begins and ends with you — our county and district officials. Debbie Wise is masterful at organizing and leading all of our member associations to prepare a package of legislation the AAC ultimately supports, and it is vetted well among all of our groups. Thank you, Debbie, for your hard work and leadership over the last year. This package in 2017 consisted of 28 bills. In the end, 26 of them were passed into law. This is a remarkable number. It is a result of countless hours of vetting and refining by the AAC staff and all associations we represent. I know of no other groups or associations that approach similar success rates with such a large number of proactive pieces of legislation. To the AAC Legislative Committee and the AAC Board of Directors, you are to be congratulated. Your efforts and full shoulder of support are ultimately the reason these bills go through. Your ideas are the genesis of these pieces of legislation. Who knows better what county government needs than those of you who work every day in the trenches? But to stop with our legislative package and grade efforts there would be shortsighted. The measure of our success is only partially rested on those 26 bills. It is ultimately the remaining 475+ bills filed and tracked — and which are part of our collective efforts — that decide whether a session gets a thumbs up or down. Though early, it is safe to say that the 2017 regular session will score a thumbsup for the counties of Arkansas. Many of the bills we had to fight on behalf of the counties were either defeated or modified to our satisfaction, and many of you made the phone calls, texts or emails necessary to raise legislative awareness to these county issues. As has been the case for the past four sessions, it all started here with Eddie Jones. Eddie is superb at details, and his review of bills helped to alert us to potential problems or opportunities. In addition, Mark Whitmore with the judges, sheriffs and coroners; Lindsey Bailey with the county clerks, justices of the peace and assessors; Josh Curtis with the circuit clerks and collectors; and Eddie with the treasurers were all amazingly effective with our members and constantly communicated with >>> 7



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statewide leadership. And to top all this off we have a crackerjack communications team with Director Christy L. Smith and newly hired Communications Coordinator Holland Doran. I cannot brag enough on your AAC staff. At the close of each session I take stock of the fact that our group is at the top in effectiveness and capability at the state Capitol, and I want to take column space here to thank them for ALL of the great work they do. You guys are indeed the best team of advocators I have ever seen assembled, and you truly care about county government and its success. Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to walk with you into the legislative battles up the hill. While the work this staff performs is incredible, it is nothing without your help. The county and district officials of this state provide a powerful, formidable voice. Often lost in policy discussion at the Capitol is the implementation and potential pitfalls in your offices. You all are so very capable in this area, and the practical, hands-on knowledge and experience that you bring is immeasurably important. The ability to communicate this impact is not developed overnight, and if your first call to a legislator is during a session, let me encourage you to reflect on the relationships you and your county officials have with your legislators. Now is the time for them to return home, and to go alongside you to pie auctions and speaking engagements across your county. This is the time for you to build these relationships … invite your senator

or representative into the courthouse, teach them the details of your job and ask that they return to Little Rock with your interests in mind — and your cell phone number firmly set on their speed-dial. The progress we all make as counties isn’t begun during a session. It is instead developed person-to-person, county-by-county as you take advantage of the local opportunities presented to you. As you learn of the impacts the bills that were passed into acts will have on you and your office, reach out to those legislators who voted for them and thank them for their help. We will all go to member association conferences over the next two months, and AAC staff will detail the bills of interest to our counties. Our handout (which you should have already received by mail) on the Index of County Government Acts is incredibly important. Please take time to look at these acts ahead of time and come to these meetings with any questions you might have. As I think back on the success of this and previous legislative sessions, I am reminded of a quote by Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” For the counties of Arkansas and the AAC, as 75 counties with one strong voice at the Capitol, this statement rings so true of our efforts legislatively, and I want to thank all of you, members and staff alike, for your work fulfilling the vision of Henry Ford’s quote.

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Family & Friends

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Looking ahead to “conference season”


nother legislative session is in the books, and I am grateful to those who made it a success — from the county officials who went to the Capitol to advocate for or against bills to the AAC staff who worked so hard to protect county interests. Members of the AAC Legislative Committee put together an outstanding package of bills to help improve county government. As a result, the majority of our bills were passed and signed into law. Of course, there are many other new laws that affect county government. The AAC hosted an informative twoday legislative review May 11 and 12. If you were unable to attend, you will receive a copy of the 2017 Index of County Government Acts. The index details legislation affecting each office in your county. I am sure you will find it useful. Now that the session is over, there is much to look forward to as June approaches. Summer is our “conference season.” Many of the associations hold continuing education conferences, which present an opportunity to learn from and fellowship with your colleagues in other counties. I hope you take full advantage of those opportunities. The National Association of Counties (NACo) annual conference will take place in July. Several county and district elected officials from Arkansas serve on NACo boards and committees. As such, they help shape NACo’s policies related to federal legislation and regulation. The conference also allows attendees to meet county officials from other states and to learn about the innovative programs they have implemented. Finally, I know you all are looking forward to the

President’s Perspective

AAC’s 49th Annual Conference. This year the conference will run August 9-11 in Little Rock. The theme is “Step Right Up to County Government.” In addition to crowd favorites such as the catfish dinner and the dinner/dance, there will be a slate of informative break out sessions. You should have reJudy Beth Hutcherson ceived a mailer with information AAC Board President; about the conference. If not, you Clark County Treasurer can turn to pages 26 and 27 in this magazine for information. Registration is available online at the newly redesigned www.arcounties.org. And while you are registering for the AAC conference, consider participating in the 19th Annual Randy Kemp Memorial Golf Tournament. It will be held Tuesday, August 8, at the Country Club of Arkansas in Maumelle. Proceeds benefit the Randy Kemp Memorial Scholarship Fund. I’m looking forward to seeing you at these events this summer.

Judy Beth Hutcherson

Judy Beth Hutcherson Clark County Treasurer / AAC Board President

COME ONE, COME ALL! 49th ANNUAL CONFERENCE Little Rock Marriott/ Statehouse Convention Center August 9-11, 2017

Turn to page 26 for details. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017




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The MyIdea Project

rom the day I took office in January 2015, one of my primary goals has been to cut out unnecessary government and to streamline the parts of government that are worth keeping. I want to transform Arkansas state government. On Thursday, we launched a program we are confident will accelerate that transformation. I am confident this will succeed because we are tapping into the best resource available: the 3 million people who live in Arkansas. We call this project MyIdea. MyIdea is a statewide high-tech suggestion box that allows anyone with an idea and access to a computer or a telephone to submit tips for trimming government or improving government service. Some of the nation’s most successful products were discovered in employee suggestion boxes, including 3M’s Post-it notes and Amazon-dot-com’s Prime membership program. But MyIdea is not an employee suggestion box. It is for every citizen to make suggestions on how we can do better in state government. To quote Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart: “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” MyIdea gives you a direct line to tell us how we can improve the delivery of services for the customer. The three-step process is simple: Go to the website, which is MyIdea.arkansas.gov. In the first box, we will ask you to tell us your idea. In the second box, we will ask you to tell us how to implement your idea. The last step is to give us information about yourself and how

From The

to contact you, although that is not Governor required. We will accept anonymous suggestions. If you would prefer to offer your idea by phone, the number is 844-7-MYIDEA. We will monitor the agencies as they consider your suggestions. Employees of the state’s Department of Finance will monitor the website and phones. We have not added a single job in state government to implement this initiative. Hon. ASA DFA will forward each idea to HuTCHINSON the head of the appropriate agency. Governor of Arkansas I have instructed each agency to respond within 30 days. And you will be contacted to thank you for your idea and to let you know if we will be able to use it. We are launching MyIdea to help me to keep my promise to transform government. In addition, I have appointed Amy Fecher chief transformation officer. Amy is executive vice president of operations for Arkansas Economic Development. In the spirit of MyIdea, Amy accepted this significant addition to her responsibilities without an increase in salary. The best ideas often come from those who see a process with fresh eyes. I hope to hear from a lot of you.

Asa Hutchinson The Honorable Asa Hutchinson Governor of Arkansas

Legislators address healthcare in First Extraordinary Session of 91st After they had adjourned their regular session sine die, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson addresses the state legislature and calls a three-day Extraordinary Session of the 91st General Assembly. During the session, the Arkansas House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 5, which will transfer funds of $105 million from the Arkansas Health Century Trust Fund to the newly created Long Term Reserve Fund. Lawmakers also passed the Senate and House versions of legislation authorizing state policymakers to reduce income eligibility limits from 138 percent to 100 percent of the federal poverty level for using federal Medicaid dollars to purchase private health insurance for Arkansans. — Photo and information by Holland Doran COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017



Family & Friends

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AG Opinions: County library employees, evaluation records

AG OPINION NO. 2016-125

The Attorney General determined that employees of a particular county library are “county employees” for the purposes of the Arkansas Public Employee Retirement System (APERS). Because employees of the county library were subject to the control of the county in terms of remuneration, the library employees were entitled to APERS contributions and other benefits of county employees under Ark. Code Ann. § 24-4-101. In this determination, the AG emphasized that the APERS board of trustees would have the final power to decide the question in a case of doubt. Under Ark. Code Ann. § 24-4-101(14)(A), county employees are “all employees whose compensations are payable, either directly or indirectly, by county participating public employers.” Further, “a ‘county’ may be any county in Arkansas, ‘includ[ing] all ... boards ... that are duly constituted agencies of the county.’” Thus, in this instance, the county library board fell within this definition, making its employees eligible for APERS contribution by the county.

AG OPINION NO. 2017-004

The AG considered the following question: Does the county judge, or instead, the quorum court, have the authority to assign proposed ordinances among existing committees? The AG determined that this power lies exclusively with the quorum court. Under both Ark. Const. amend. 55, § 1(a) and Ark. Code Ann. § 14-14801(a), the quorum court is designated as the county’s local legislative

authority. The county judge may appoint the members of quorum court committees and limit the size of those committees; however, “assigning proposed ordinances to specific existing committees falls within the quorumcourt’s managerial and procedural authorities, if not its local legislative powers.” Furthermore, quorum courts are not prohibited from assigning ordinances to committees.

AG OPINION NO. 2016-139

The AG made clear that the “parking lot exception” under Act 1078 of 2015 includes county parking lots. This exception allows concealed-carry licensees to leave his or her concealed handgun in his or her “locked and unattended motor vehicle” in a “publicly owned and maintained parking lot.” This act amended statutes relating to both the concealed handgun licensing law and criminal weapons statutes to expand exceptions. Under this act, a concealed-carry licensee may leave his or her concealed handgun hidden from view in a locked and unattended vehicle in a publically owned parking lot — including county-owned parking lots — “without fear of either prosecution or license revocation.”

AG OPINION NO. 2016-137

While evaluating whether an employee’s employee evaluation records were properly disclosed in response to a request under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Attorney General determined that the records were properly disclosed. Under FOIA, a document is subject to disclosure if the request is directed

AG Opinions

to an entity subject to the act, the requested document is a public record, and no exceptions allow the Mark Whitmore document AAC Chief Counsel to be withheld. Two exceptions may prevent a request from being granted — personnel records and employee evaluation or job performance records. In this case, the records fell within the employee evaluation records exception. This exception refers to any records created by or at the behest of the employer in order to evaluate the employee and that detail the employee’s performance on the job. Additionally, employee evaluation or job performance records may only be released if all of the following elements are met: (1) the employee was suspended or terminated, (2) there has been a final administrative resolution of the proceeding, (3) these records formed a basis for the decision in this proceeding, and (4) the public has a compelling interest in the disclosure of the records in question. The primary purpose of this exception is to preserve the confidentiality of the formal job-evaluation process to promote honest exchanges in employment relationships. Because these conditions were satisfied in this case, an employee’s “Notice of Disciplinary Action Form” and accompanying memorandum were properly released.

www.arcounties.org 12


Why does Financial Intelligence software work for you? Honorable Debbie Baxter, Montgomery County Clerk

Honorable Larry C. Davis, Saline County Treasurer

“We made the decision to make a software change in 2013. We wanted to find a company to provide new payroll, accounts payable, and general ledger software specifically designed for County government. Our goal was to be more efficient with the different options provided by the software while keeping our costs down…we have succeeded. We remain impressed with the training and ongoing support we have received.”

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A legislative recap: public records and publication responsibilites of counties


his legislative session, advocates and policy makers pushed legislation that would make changes to the responsibilities of Arkansas counties in regards to public records, publication of delinquent taxes, and responsibilities under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Though not all of these bills were passed, the presence of these ideas represents trends that may come back up in the 2019 legislative session and represent potential changes in the future. This article serves as an update of changes that were enacted and will soon take effect, as well as a discussion of bills not passed, but representing ideas that may gain traction in the future. Publication by County Officials 1. Publication of Ordinances Under the current law, unless otherwise specified in a specific statute in question, when a county government is required to publish, this publication is satisfied by a one-time insertion in a newspaper of general circulation within the county, governed by Ark. Code Ann. § 14-14-104. If the county has no newspaper of general circulation, publication may be made by posting in three public places that have been designated by ordinance. In specific instances in which a county is required to publish notice of a hearing or other official act, this notice should be published two times with at least six days separating each publication, as per Ark. Code Ann. § 14-14105. This notice should contain the date, time and place at which the hearing or other action will occur, a brief statement of the action to be taken, and any other information which may be required by the specific provision of the law requiring notice. House Bill 1836 filed in the 2017 legislative session by Rep. Karilyn Brown would have made changes to the methods allowed for publication. First, the bill would have amended § 14-14-104 to allow counties to choose whether to publish in a newspaper of circulation in the county or to publish on a website owned by or affiliated with the county, as long as the publication was also posted in three public places designated by ordinance. Next, House Bill 1836 would also have amended the notice by publication requirement, § 14-14-105, by allowing counties to again choose between publishing in a newspaper of circulation in the county or publication for 14 consecutive days on a website owned by or affiliated with the county, as long as the notice was also posted in three public places designated by ordinance. Finally, this bill would have amended the 14

Research Corner

requirement — found in § 1414-903(d)(1) — that every five years, a uniform code of county ordinances be compiled and published. This bill, if passed, would have required this compilation to be published to a website owned by or affiliated aimie alexander with the county. Law Clerk Although this bill was not passed in the 2017 session, its presence reflects the overarching trend of digital integration. The push to allow counties to publish notices and ordinances online may gain strength in the 2019 legislative session and in the future. 2. Publication of Delinquent Taxes on Real Property and Mineral Interests by County Taxpayers A new addition to the law adds a requirement for the content of tax bills. Senate Bill 114 (now Act 514) sponsored by Sen. Bart Hester and Rep. Kim Hammer adds a requirement for the content of tax bills. Under current law, the following information is required to be included on each tax bill sent by the county collector to property taxpayers: the sum of the millage rates levied by each taxing unit, the percentage of the full value of the property that the sum of the millage rate levies represents, and the total amount due and billed under Ark. Code Ann. § 26-23-204. Now, the county’s website address must also be included on the bill. Under current Arkansas law, county collectors prepare a list of delinquent lands in their respective counties and deliver a copy of this list to a newspaper of the county by Dec. 1 of each year, as required by Ark. Code Ann. § 26-37-107. The newspaper publishes this list within seven days of delivery. The publication fee is set at $1.50 per tract of land. This fee is added as costs of forfeiture and is paid by the county collector from funds in the collector’s possession from the payment of real property taxes. The collector then is entitled to a credit for the amount paid. It should be noted that as a result of a bill passed during the 2017 legislative session, these guidelines do not apply to delinquent taxes on mineral interests, which should comply with the requirements in § 26-36-107, and are discussed in detail below. a. Delinquent Minerals For tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2017, the notification guidelines will change for delinquent mineral inCOUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017


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terests, pursuant to Act 514. Instead, the county collector “My goal was to make it easier for people to have access to will prepare a list of the delinquent taxes on mineral inter- the information and get their property back. I wanted to reach ests in the county, and provide the list to the Association of people on a medium they constantly use,” Auditor Lea said. Arkansas Counties (AAC) by Dec. 1 of each year. This list After this bill passed, her office saw big changes. should include the following information: (1) the name and “In 2016, my office spent around $100,000 on print ads, last known address of the owner of the mineral interests; and we were able to return 5,000 more properties than in (2) the applicable well name, uncontrolled lease name, or years past. I am grateful to the legislature for freeing up my unitized area name as recognized by the Oil and Gas Com- hands and allowing my office to work so much more efmission; (3) the county, section, township and range of the ficiently,” she said. property containing the mineral interests; (4) notice of the The AAC is grateful for Auditor Lea’s assistance in getpenalty provided; and (5) notice that the county collector ting the delinquent minerals publication bill passed in order may seek collection to help streamline the if the property taxes, process in the future. penalties and interest remain unpaid after b. Delinquent PerDec. 1. With this insonal Property Taxes his will have a huge impact on counties that formation, the AAC The procedures will create a webfor publishing deare oil- or gas-producing counties ... Its imsite accessible by the linquent personal public and dedicated property taxes remain pact will be huge for years to come. This is the way of the to publishing notice unchanged after this of delinquent taxes legislative session. future. People don’t read newspapers anymore. on mineral interests. County collectors This information will should prepare a list be published on the of delinquent person— Columbia County Collector Cindy Walker on Act al property taxes and website within seven days of receipt. deliver a copy of this 514 of 2017 list to a legal newsCounty collectors should continue to paper of the county publish notice in the no later than Dec. 1 newspaper that circulates in the county, and this notice of each year, according to Ark. Code Ann. § 26-36-203. should provide the website at which the delinquent mineral The newspaper should publish this list within seven days interest tax list may be found. Additionally, the county col- of receipt, and shall receive $1.25 per name, per insertion. lector should publish notice at the courthouse and provide This is combined with the $0.50 per name for the county notice through the county website. collector preparing and furnishing the list. This combined Supporters look forward to these changes making the delin- amount should be charged to the delinquent taxpayer and quent mineral process much easier for Arkansas counties. Van paid by the county collector from any funds derived from Buren County Collector Lisa Nunley predicts this new devel- payment of personal property taxes. The county collector opment will save her county approximately $20,000 per year. will be entitled to a credit for the funds paid. “It’s great because I know it’s going to save this county a lot of money,” she said. 3. Notice by County Official Under Title 16 — ReasonCindy Walker, Columbia County collector and past pres- able Costs ident of the Arkansas County Tax Collectors Association, While the procedures for collectors who are required to echoes this prediction. publish notice for delinquent taxes are well-established, the “This will have a huge impact on counties that are oil- or costs for circuit clerks publishing notice of legal matters are gas-producing counties,” Walker said. “Its impact will be not as established. Advertisements and orders of publicahuge for years to come. This is the way of the future. People tion required by law or order of any court, or in confordon’t read newspapers anymore.” mity with any deed of trust, real estate mortgage, or chattel State Auditor Andrea Lea was a strong supporter of this mortgage over $350, should be published in at least one bill. In 2015, her office asked the legislature to amend the newspaper circulating in the county, provided by Ark. Code law to allow online publication of unclaimed property. Be- Ann. § 16-3-101. For amounts less than $350, notices may fore she was elected auditor, the state auditor’s office typi- be posted in five conspicuous places in the county. Unless cally spent more than $200,000 to place print ads for unclaimed property. See “RESPONSIBILITIES” on Page 16 > > >





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Responsibilities another time is given, the notice should run for one week, per Ark. Code Ann. § 16-3-102. Differences emerge when looking at payment for these notices. According to Ark. Code Ann. § 16-3-103, payment for the notice should be paid for by the party at whose instance it was published. This payment, “or so much as deemed reasonable,” may be taxed as other costs otherwise allowed by the proper courts in the course of the proceedings to which the advertisement relates. The only guidance given to what constitutes as “reasonable,” however, is a requirement that a newspaper may not receive more than its regular classified advertising rate for publications. It may be helpful in the future for legislators to provide more guidance or more uniform requirements between notice requirements of county collectors and circuit clerks. Public Records of County Officials 1. Records Available to the Public Generally The current law on public records, Ark. Code Ann. § 1414-110, requires that records and written materials in the possession of a local government shall be available for inspection and copying by any person during normal office hours. However, personal records, medical records and other records relating to individual privacy are not available to the public unless the individual requests they be made available. 2. Production of Public Records Under FOIA In 1967, Congress enacted the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in order to make federal government records available to the public. The same year, Arkansas passed similar legislation to make state records available to the public. The purpose of these laws is to promote transparency in government. In some circumstances, however, complying with these laws can greatly burden public officials and prevent them from being able to exercise their duties elsewhere. For this reason, specific exceptions to the laws exist – two potential exceptions considered in this session are discussed below. a. Overly Burdensome Productions Several surrounding states, such as Kansas, Kentucky and Texas, provide a method of dealing with overly burdensome requests from the public. For example, if a public agency receives a request that is overly broad or unduly burdensome, the public records custodian is typically required to negotiate with the person to narrow his or her request. Public agencies are allowed to charge requestors reasonable fees to help cover the cost of providing the public records. If attempts to narrow the request or charge reasonable fees do not resolve the issue, FOIA laws usually allow the agency to deny the request. Every state provides the requestor a means 16

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of appealing a denial for a public records request, and unless there is a statutory exemption for the public records, the public agency usually has the burden of proving that the denial was justified. Some states require the public agency to meet a higher burden of proof than others. Arkansas law does not provide any exceptions for unduly burdensome requests. As the law stands right now, public officials have three days to comply with any public records request, regardless of how much time or man power it may require to produce the documents. The consequences are severe; public officials may face criminal or civil penalties under Ark. Code Ann. §§ 25-19-104 and 107. The majority of states surrounding Arkansas — including Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Missouri — allow longer periods to respond. Only Louisiana has the same time frame — three business days — as Arkansas to respond to a request. Both Mississippi and Tennessee must respond in seven days, while Texas must provide notice of when it will reasonably respond if not able to do so in 10 days. Oklahoma must only respond promptly. While Missouri should respond in three business days, this time frame may be lengthened by written notice. Here in Arkansas, Rep. Bob Johnson and Sen. Jane English proposed House Bill 1622. If passed, this bill would have allowed a public entity more time to comply with a request considered to be unduly burdensome. The public records custodian would have had to provide an explanation to the requestor about why there was a delay in responding to his or her request and an expected date of compliance. This provision would have given public officials the flexibility they need from time to time to divert resources and man power to comply with a request for an extraordinary quantity of public records. The bill would not have allowed an official to deny a request, and it would have maintained the civil and criminal penalties already in place. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass, but may be an indication of future flexibility for response time for county officials in FOIA compliance. Even though an increase in the time of production was not provided this session, a step toward progress was made by the passage of another bill sponsored by Rep. Johnson and Sen. English. House Bill 1623 (now Act 1107) will allow the recipient of a FOIA request to refer the requester to the respective county’s website if the information is already available there. This allowance will be useful for electronic records kept online like police reports, public court records, and data published by the county assessor or collector. Though more progress is needed to continue to alleviate some of the burden from county officials in some circumstances, this enacted bill is a step in the right direction. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017


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b. Attorney Client Exception This legislative session, Sen. Bart Hester proposed a bill that would have exempted attorney-client communications and attorney work product from FOIA requests (Senate Bill 373). In the course of an attorney-client relationship, communications between an attorney and his or her client are kept confidential to facilitate openness, honesty and trust. When an attorney prepares documents, especially when he or she jots down strategies and thought processes, it is considered his or her work product. In a typical lawsuit between private parties, attorney-client communications and attorney work product are not subject to discovery, or disclosure to the other party in the lawsuit. Under Arkansas’ FOIA laws, however, attorney-client communications and attorney work product are available to the public. That means that in a lawsuit in which one or more of the parties is a public entity or a public official, the opposing party, who would not otherwise be able to have access to such privileged information, is able to obtain attorney-client documents and communications by filing an FOIA request. This puts public entities and public officials at a disadvantage when they face private parties in court. Ultimately, the bill failed in the Senate. However, strong support for such exemptions to prevent the abuse of FOIA will certainly be


discussed in upcoming legislative sessions. Looking Forward The biggest gain for Arkansas counties in regard to public records, publication requirements and responsibilities under FOIA was the passage of Act 514, saving gas and oil producing counties thousands of dollars per year and providing for online publication of delinquent minerals. Supporters have high hopes of the option for online notice publication to continue to gain traction in legislative sessions to come. Additionally, uniform clarity of other types of notice publication would prove useful. While bills to provide much-needed relief for county officials working to comply with FOIA requests failed in this session, these ideas will likely continue to gain momentum in the future. Simple alterations, such as the extension of the three day time frame for officials, or the exclusion of attorney-client privileged communication and work product, would raise the bar in pursuing the mission of government transparency. Finally, as reflected by the passage of House Bill 1823, now Act 960 (sponsored by Rep. Charlie Collins), electronic trends are the way of the future — counties will see more and more electronic publishing requirements and should embrace the tools of technology in producing inclusive and effective governance of Arkansas counties.



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A report on recent state legislation

Governmental he 91st General Assembly is in the books. The remove law enforcement officers’ Affairs


legislature filed 2,069 bills, and the Governor signed 1,113 into law. The Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) had 28 bills in its proposed legislative package, and 26 of them became law. We tracked 537 bills that had the potential to affect county government — 263 of these were approved. The 12-week session was a success for the counties of Arkansas. I would like to thank all the county elected officials and staff for coming to the state Capitol to support or oppose legislation. We sent you many legislative action alerts, and you should know that your phone calls, texts and emails to legislators did not go unnoticed. Now the hard work of implementing these new laws commences. If an act has an emergency clause attached to it, then it goes into effect at the time the Governor signs it. All other bills without an emergency clause will become law July 31 — 90 days after Sine Die (formal adjournment). Some acts have special effective dates — and maybe even expiration dates. Senate Bill 114 by Sen. Bart Hester and Rep. Kim Hammer will have a positive financial impact for mineral producing counties. These counties were required to publish delinquent mineral parcels in the newspaper under Ark. Code Ann. § 26-37-102. This bill, now Act 514 of 2017, changed that requirement. Rather than publishing in a newspaper twice, those counties are now able to publish the delinquencies on a website that will reach more people and stay live for a year. The AAC has agreed to host a statewide website for all mineral producing counties. This act also requires these parcels to be posted on the counties’ websites, as well. This should save these counties thousands of dollars. For example, it will save Van Buren County more than $30,000 and Columbia County more than $15,000 each year. We began work on this bill in 2015, and I think that is why we were successful. Good legislation doesn’t just happen; it takes a lot of work and many meetings with stakeholders. The main opposition to this bill was the Arkansas Press Association because publishing on a website would take money away from newspapers. However, our arguments about the website giving the public more access to delinquency information carried more water with the legislature. A second publication bill filed late in the session did not pass and was referred to interim study for the 2019 session. Rep. Karilyn Brown filed House Bill 1836, which would have allowed counties to post ordinances and other documents on a website rather than in a newspaper. This bill will be studied over the next 18 months with input from multiple stakeholders. Hopefully, the stakeholders can reach a consensus like we did on Senate Bill 114. House Bill 1866 by Rep. Robin Lundstrum attempted to 18

personal information from tax and land records posted on public websites. The sponsor’s intention was to help law enforcement officers protect their identity. The idea has merit, but it would have been a wholesale change to the way many industries do business. We could not support this bill, but we supported the idea and agreed Josh Curtis it should be studied in the interim. Governmental Affairs We worked with multiple groups Director to assert our opposition to this bill but expressed interest in working with the sponsor to try to find a workable solution before the 2019 session. House Bill 1260 by Rep. John Maddox and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson regarding reimbursement for jurors was another bill that will benefit counties financially. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-34-103 mandates counties to pay a per diem compensation of $15 to any prospective juror who is summoned and appears on location. If a juror is selected and seated in the box, then the state pays $50 each day from the Administration of Justice Fund. This fund has grown due to the declining number of jury trials conducted across the state. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and a few circuit clerks recognized this before the session started, so we wrote a bill that allowed the AOC to reimburse the counties $15 for the first time a prospective juror appears at the location to which he or she is summoned. Counties supplement the court system to the tune of $46 million. Our hope is that the state can provide more relief for our counties in the future — just like we did here with Act 276 of 2017. I wrote in the 2016 Fall County Lines issue about problems surrounding our 911 system. In that issue, I mentioned a bill placing a moratorium on Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). House Bill 1553 by Reps. Scott Baltz and Tim Lemons and Sen. Blake Johnson is now Act 574 of 2017. This law restricts the creation of any new PSAPs unless they are consolidated with an existing PSAP or replacing a current PSAP. Act 785 of 2017 allows the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to spend funds on a study of a statewide 911 system. We expect this study will recognize some of the shortcomings in Arkansas’s emergency response system, and we can act on those recommendations in the next legislative session. These are just a few bills that I followed closely this session. There were many more that the AAC influenced with the help of elected officials around the state. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017


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The 91st General Assembly’s impact on election laws

Legal Corner


here were plenty of hot topics in the 2017 was the move to consolidate General Session of the 91st General Assembly, school elections and other special and election laws were no exception. Most of elections into the primary and the election issues legislators brought before general election dates. While efthe General Assembly were not new or unique, but rather forts to consolidate all special eleccommon, recurring issues of past sessions. Primary election tions failed this session, Act 910 and filing period dates, special election consolidation, voter of 2017 passed. Act 910, effective LINDSEY BAILEY identification, and state funding for new voting equipment Jan. 1, 2018, will require all anGeneral Counsel all garnered the attention of the legislature in the 2017 nual school elections, meaning all General Session. school board races, but excluding Concerning the primary election dates in Arkansas, Act 4 millage elections, to be held on the of the Third Extraordinary Session of 2015 was passed with primary or general election date in even-numbered years, or a sunset date of Dec. 31, 2016. The act moved the Arkansas the corresponding dates in odd-numbered years. Pursuant preferential primary date from its usual date in May up to to Act 910, no later than the first date of the candidate filing the date commonly known as the “SEC Primary” date or period in 2018 and going forward, each school district must “Super Tuesday,” March 1, notify its respective county 2016. This allowed Arkanclerk(s) if it will choose sas to participate in a heavto hold its annual school ost of the election issues legislators ily populated Republican board elections on the presidential primary elecprimary or general elecbrought before the General Assembly tion, with 12 candidates tion date. The 2017 school filing for the Republican board elections will not be were not new or unique, but rather revisited presidential primary race, impacted. along with six Democrats. The 2017 General Sescommon, recurring issues of past sessions. Changing the preferential sion also brought back anprimary date also necessarother familiar issue in the ily changed the filing peform of two separate voter riod for all candidates runidentification initiatives. In ning for office, including county offices, from the previous October 2014, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down filing period ending on the first day of March all the way Act 595 of 2013, which had required persons voting both in up to November of the year preceding the primary election. person and by absentee ballot to provide poll workers with This change was met with mixed reviews by candidates, proper identification before being allowed to cast a vote. with some enjoying the filing fees and national attention In a unanimous decision of the court, three of the justices that Arkansas received by having more presidential can- declared the act unconstitutional in a concurring opinion didates register; however, many local candidates were dis- solely because it did not reach two-thirds threshold in each pleased with the November filing period, effectively forcing chamber of the General Assembly as required by the Arkanthem to begin their campaigns around the holiday season. sas Constitution. Alternatively, the court’s majority opinion There were two bills filed this session to continue the recent authored by Justice Donald Corbin declared the law unconMarch primary election date and November filing period; stitutionally violated Arkansas citizens’ right to vote because however, neither bill passed. Therefore, absent some action it required more of a registered voter than is required by the of the legislature in a special session, the 2018 preferential Arkansas Constitution: to be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citiprimary date will revert back to the law as it was before Act zen, an Arkansas resident, and registered to vote. 4 passed, with the primary election presumably being held There were two attempts this session to reinstate the voter on May 22, 2018, and the candidates’ one-week filing pe- identification requirements struck down by the court in riod ending on the first day of March. See “ELECTIONS” on Page 20 > > > Another issue returning this session from previous years





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Elections 2014. The first, HB1047, now Act 633 of 2017, merely amends the Arkansas Code, not the constitution. Although it did receive the requisite two-thirds of each chamber this time, there is still an argument to be made (one that was made in the 2014 majority opinion) that this statute, as amended, would still violate the Arkansas Constitution by requiring more of a registered voter than is set forth in the constitution. Proponents of Act 633 are confident that if it is challenged before the Arkansas Supreme Court again, the court, now with a new Chief Justice and without Justice Donald Corbin, author of the October 2014 opinion, would rule in favor of the bill’s constitutionality. However, if Act 633 were challenged and declared unconstitutional yet again, a second initiative, HJR1016, also passed and will make its way to the general election ballot in November 2018. If the people pass HJR1016 in the 2018 general election, it would amend the constitutional requirements for a registered voter to cast a ballot in an election, adding the requirement to provide proper identification in addition to the current four requirements before voting in person or by absentee ballot. However, there could still be potential federal constitutional issues, since the right to vote is considered a fundamental right


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protected by the U.S. Constitution. Finally, SB297, which failed to pass out of the Joint Budget Special Language Committee, would have appropriated $34.5 million to the County Voting Systems Grant Fund, enough to secure new voting equipment for all counties in need statewide. Counties across the state are struggling with old, deficient and deteriorating voting equipment and are not prepared to handle another election with current equipment, much less a primary or general election with school board elections included on the same day. Last year, 10 Arkansas counties were able to provide voters with new voting machines, paid nearly in full by the County Voting Systems Grant Fund, with Washington County paying $420,000 to the state’s $1.2 million for its new machines. Other counties receiving new machines from state funding were Boone, Columbia, Garland, Sebastian, Yell, Chicot, Cleveland, Jackson and Randolph counties. Those counties still waiting in line for funding for new voting equipment are hopeful the legislature will recognize the integrity of Arkansas elections as a priority and perhaps address the funding issues in a special session rather than kicking the can down the road to the 92nd General Assembly.



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Oh, how easy it is: electronic miscommunication


ommunication: “The successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings.” On a day during the recent legislative session, I was jolted by an unsuccessful attempt to properly communicate via text message to a legislator. My text was returned with a terse, even snippy reply. You know the old saying, “tit for tat?” So I fired off another text, probably saying something not very professional. Between what is said and not meant and what is meant and not said, much is lost. I have made much of my living in the communications field — 10 years prior to getting into public service and another 20 after getting into county government. After a long career of almost 37 years in public service, my job requires effective communication. Yet, I apparently did not convey my message effectively in that text to a senator. I considered the wording of my text and really could not think of a better way that I could have phrased my message. Legislators and I are sometimes on opposite sides of an issue, but I always do my very best not to hold any ill will toward someone who has a different opinion or value from mine. However, this legislator appeared to be very offended that I would be on the other side of this particular issue. It was then that I had to realize that we were not having this discussion face-to-face, but electronically. Email and texting impart a lot of convenience to our everyday communication. While typing up an email or text is certainly faster than calling or meeting in person, it lacks the personal cues that often make communication meaningful. That’s why it’s very common and easy for misunderstandings to occur. Perhaps the line you intended to be funny didn’t come off that way on the other end. Or you had no intention of being rude, yet your closing remark sounded that way to the recipient. In a legislative session when bills are moving quickly, many times a quick text is all you can do. My latest bad experience reminded me of the extreme importance of clear and concise electronic communication. As someone once said, “Texting is a brilliant way to miscommunicate how you feel and misinterpret what other people mean.” With email and text, it is difficult to convey emotion because there are no paralinguistic or nonverbal cues such as gesture, emphasis or intonation. But over the phone you can grasp a good deal about how a person is feeling just by the tone of their voice. The reason it’s difficult for us to appreciate email and text limitations stems from egocentrism. When you send an email COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017

Seems To Me...

or text, you are essentially “hearing” the statement you intend to send. So if you intend to be funny or sarcastic, you assume that the recipient will also “hear” the message this way. It’s not easy to remember that our audience may, in fact, hear the message differently. Eddie A. Jones Email and texts, although they County Consultant have limitations, will be around for a long time. One reason is that we baby boomers know how to use it and are not intimidated by it, unlike other forms of high-tech communication that may be a bit cryptic and hard to use. I’m obviously out of touch. I have been using email and text messaging for a long time. I’ve had opportunities to observe effective and extremely ineffective use of technology-assisted communication. I don’t understand why some people just toss all courtesy aside and feel they can say anything in public or in writing just because they are using a form of technology. Jodie Andrefski’s quote, “He seemed to think we were on the same page. I wasn’t even sure we were reading the same book,” often describes our electronic communication. A good email database or the use of listservs can be beneficial for your county office if you will simply employ certain rules of etiquette. Let me share a few commandments that I hope you will find helpful in using the various technologies in your communications efforts. Many of these are geared toward email, but could apply to text messaging and other forms of electronic communication.

Commandment 1

“Thou shalt send information to groups. Thou shalt send requests for action to individuals.”

Email is an effective way of sending information to large groups of people. However, if you want someone to take some action, it’s best to ask them individually because you are much more likely to get a response. Here is what I mean: If you are sending out a meeting announcement and you want people to RSVP, it’s good to send out a general email to the targeted group. It is then effective to follow-up with individuals who have not responded. While a little more timeconsuming, you will get a much better response that way and See


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it certainly isn’t as time-consuming as making phone calls.

Commandment 2

“Thou shalt be clear and direct, but polite”

Email can be an abrupt medium, and directness can be mistaken for rudeness. I have heard people complain about an email’s “tone.” A good rule of thumb is to address the person by name in the opening of your message and close with your name. Maybe it was the perceived tone of my text that set off the senator. That was not my intention. Remember: Clear and direct, but polite. The No. 1 thing to keep in mind when communicating digitally is that tone and attitude are not easily conveyed in writing, and you are not able use body language to help recipients infer what you mean. Many people tend to slip in emoticons like smiley faces or abbreviated “textspeak” like “LOL” to suggest tone and humor. But more often than not, these additions are seen as unprofessional and should not be used in professional messages. Put yourself in the recipients’ shoes and figure out how they may perceive the information you’re sending.

Commandment 3

“Thou shalt read each email thou composes twice, maybe thrice before sending.”

This includes checking who you’re sending it to. You may accidentally send a message to someone you didn’t intend to. (Something I did once ... embarrassing to say the least.) One of these read-throughs should be to check for grammar, spelling and punctuation. I once got an email from a job applicant responding to a request for an interview. The email looked as if it had been written by someone who didn’t pass the fourth grade; it was full of misspellings and grammatical mistakes. Needless to say this person left a terrible impression and did not get the job. In fact, why not double the eyes. If what you’re sending is important, or if the impression you need to make on the recipient is crucial, write your email and then get a second opinion. It doesn’t need to be someone with a writing or editing background, just someone who will give you honest feedback about the tone and how your correspondence might be received. Also, it is really not appropriate to send sensitive or confidential information via email. There are some things that should simply be done in person, such as firing someone or taking disciplinary action with an employee. So if you have to send something sensitive, read it three times, make sure it’s OK to send, and take a deep breath or wait a day before 22


sending. It’s easy to hit “Send” in the heat of the moment and regret it later.

Commandment 4

“Thou shalt ask the question ‘Is this really necessary to send at all?’”

Our inboxes are full of emails that really didn’t need to be sent to us. Be careful of using “CC” and “Reply to All.” They are not necessary in many instances. If you must forward something, be sure to include an explanation and more than just an FYI. You want your messages to be read. But if you are sending too many unnecessary emails, it could be like the boy who cried wolf — your important messages will be missed.

Commandment 5

“Thou shalt be considerate.”

Avoid emailing, taking phone calls or text messaging in meetings, while driving or at the dinner table. I have been an offender of this. It’s fun to email your coworkers and friends when you’re in a boring meeting, but it’s also the height of rudeness. Have you ever been to a meeting in which several people are using their electronic devices to respond to emails or texts? I don’t think anything could be much more distracting, unless it’s a cell phone ringing.

Commandment 6

“Thou shalt remember that email is a communications tool.”

Try not to become a slave to your computer or smartphone. Back when the Blackberry was the “in thing,” we would have said don’t let the Blackberry become a “crackberry.” It’s your tool to communicate; you should be able to shut if off once in a while.

Commandment 7

“Thou shalt make the subject line stand out.”

Always include a subject line in an email. Keep it simple, but informative. Ensure the subject line is clear and something the recipient cares about. People often decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line.

Commandment 8

“Thou shalt format properly.”

How you format your email can impact how your message is perceived. For example, USING ALL CAPS is the digital version of shouting. If your intention was to shout, See


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Working with FEMA so you can get paid, and keep it


ollowing the ice storm of 2000, Scott County was sued for more than $1 million by a private contractor that alleged that the county owed the money by virtue of a contract for debris clean-up. FEMA refused to pay the contractor the amount owed according to the terms of the contract. After three years of litigation (and about $75,000 in attorneys’ fees), Scott County settled for about $200,000, paid from the County General Fund. This article is written to warn all Arkansas county judges — so history does not repeat itself. Emergency Status: When your county suffers a disaster and emergency response is needed, without question the first priority is taking care of life and property. FEMA recognizes this situation but ... the matter quickly turns to a non-emergency clean-up operation. That’s where FEMA gets real sticky about its rules. WARNING: Follow the FEMA rules, or FEMA will allow you to suffer the consequences of your own choice not to follow the FEMA rules.

County Law Update

know and follow the rules. Include in any contract with any contractor an agreement that the contract will agree to accept as full and final payment the amount FEMA chooses for reimbursement. That way, the county will not end up stuck with a deficiency. MIKE RAINWATER

Document, Document, DocRisk Management ument: After a major disaster Legal Counsel strikes, you will be dealing with FEMA for a long time. FEMA staff that you will be working with will change. FEMA rules will change. Items that have been approved at one level will be denied at another level. The only protection you have is to document everything that is humanly possible to document. Else, you may not be able to prove that a later FEMA audit is shorting the county from money needed to pay for the clean-up costs incurred by the county. The county needs to be able to prove how many cubic yards were in each load the county wants FEMA to pay for. This means an accounting system must be established on the front end — so you can prove it on the back end.

After the Initial Emergency: After the first response, the financial reality of a disaster looms large. Planning and preparing for financial cost recovery aspects of a disaster will pay dividends. Listen to the advice and warnings by FEMA and state Office of Emergency Services officials. Do not Pictures: Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Estabtake off on your own. Do not be a pioneer. Find out about lish an inspection site at each disposal location where each and follow FEMA rules. load of debris can be recorded. Use a video camera to film each load coming through. The same is true for emergency Private General Contractors: There are two basic ways repair work. Take pictures of the roadways being cleared as to proceed with clean-up: 1) the county can contract with an emergency. Put disposable cameras in vehicles that might a third party to serve as the contractor for the clean-up op- be called out to do emergency repairs and train people to eration or 2) the county can serve as its own self-contractor use them. While you’re at it, put a whole emergency fiand subcontract with various persons or entities to do the nancial kit in a baggy in the glove compartments of your work. Do not sign a contract with a private general contrac- vehicles. It can include a disposable camera and a couple tor to oversee the county’s clean-up work for the county of forms where staff can list the location of the emergency without knowing the FEMA rules. For example, FEMA work, what staff are on location between what hours, and rules require competitive bidding if the county chooses to whether any equipment was used. A picture and this kind of contract with a third party for the non-emergency portion on-the-spot documentation will be worth its weight in gold of the clean-up work. Sole-source contracts are prohibited. five years later when an auditor asks you what happened at If you fail to follow FEMA’s rules, FEMA will refuse to pay a specific site. the money and your county could end up in the same situAccount Codes: Set up an emergency accounting code ation Scott County found itself in after the 2000 ice storm. structure. Even a rudimentary coding system with a code Generally, it seems to work better when the county serves as its own general contractor for non-emergency clean-up op- for each department or division for charging time and costs erations, and then contracts with sub-contractors for tasks for an emergency is a good idea. As the emergency response as needed. There are certainly many qualified disaster cleanSee “FEMA” on Page 24 > > > up contractors and sub-contractors. Just make sure you COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017




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Continued From Page 23


unfolds, you can and should add tracking codes for spe- do not try to charge equipment for 24 hours because it was cific locations or other designations of costs needed for each at the disaster site for 24 hours when you have an operator FEMA Project Worksheet (PW), the form they will use for for only eight hours.) tracking costs and providing approvals. No Reimbursement for Volunteers: You can be reimPW Level: Track all costs at the Project Worksheet (PW) bursed only for expenses that are your legal responsibility. level. FEMA prefers to have extremely specific PWs. You What about all of those small non-profit organizations that can often get by with one PW covering all police work on helped out during the response that do not have the experthe first day of an emergency and separate ones covering all tise to complete all of the forms and keep all of the docufire, emergency medical, public works, and other immedi- mentation? Most often they would not be eligible for FEMA ate costs. But after that very immediate response, FEMA is reimbursement. One way to try to handle this is to set up going to want to see detailed charges — usually down to contracts with your non-profits before any disaster strikes very specific geographical detail. You need to set up tracking that make it your government’s responsibility to provide the codes at the PW or lower levels to ensure reimbursement. service (e.g., care and shelter) through the non-profit. You This applies to force account expenses, contractor costs, and pay the non-profit for their services and it should make the any other miscellaneous expenses. You should set up your costs eligible for reimbursement. accounting structure to accommodate this level of tracking. Active vs. Inactive: Facilities must be active at the time Damages Only; No Improvements: The general guide- of the emergency. Yes, this means that an older building no line is that FEMA will pay to replace only what was dam- longer in use will not be repaired or replaced with FEMA aged — not for an improvement. What is an improve- money. But it also means that a new facility under construcment? Even if it is a cheaper aleternative to redesign or tion is not eligible for FEMA funding. take a different route, FEMA will reject reimbursement if Be reasonable in your expectations. Remember, even if it was an “improvement.” you receive the funds up front, you can lose them years later in audits. The auditors feel no responsibility to honor or be Audit/Compulsory Refunds to FEMA: Even if FEMA consistent with approvals made throughout the process. pays the county, FEMA can later force a refund if the payments are deemed to be too much or to not qualify (like FEMA Staff: The FEMA staff you will be working with an “improvement”). So documentation may be required to right after a disaster will probably be temporary or contract keep money that has already been paid by FEMA. staff who may not be completely familiar with FEMA rules. And the rules may be changing. So if you get a response you County Employee Compensation: FEMA will pay only do not like, do not just accept it. Appeal it up the chain unadditional, disaster-related costs. One of the most difficult til you exhaust your possibilities. Of course, you need to use issues relates to employee compensation. The result is that good judgment about how often to do this and how much it is, counter-intuitively, often cheaper to hire contractors money is involved so you do not dilute the response to your than assign work to county staff. You should understand really serious, larger disputes. how FEMA will treat “force account” or county staff labor vs. contractors. FEMA will rarely question paying a bill Audit: When your disaster is in the news, people (infrom outside contractors (i.e., persons not already on the cluding members of Congress) care about helping you. Do county payroll) as long as the amount seems reasonable. whatever you can and use whatever pressure you can bring However, FEMA takes a much different view of reimburse- to bear to have your costs audited as soon as possible. If you ments for emergency work done by your own county staff. have completed your immediate emergency response cost For example, if you reassign staff to do clean-up work dur- documentation, you can ask for an audit of those costs — ing their regular hours, FEMA will not reimburse you since even if the more permanent repair work is still under way. they will not see any additional cost. If you then have to If you learn from those audits, you may be able to be more pay staff overtime to catch up on their normal work, FEMA successful securing reimbursement for the permanent work. will not pay that either because it is not disaster related. If If you are being audited seven years later, policymakers and you hire a contractor to do the work, you avoid the issue. the public will not come to your aid if FEMA rules they are (“Force account” costs also include equipment and sup- taking back money for questioned or undocumented costs plies, but these are normally relatively straightforward. But — you will be old news. 24



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Piloting our way to better health


recently was invited to attend the “Employee Health Improvement Forum” meeting sponsored by the Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI). AAC staff members are invited to a lot of meetings. Some we know exactly what we are getting into, and some we really don’t know what to expect. This meeting fell into the latter category for me. I have been to many meetings about wellness programs. However, none have seemed to fit into the unique framework of county government. Our 75 counties are similar in many ways, yet completely different in others. The uniqueness of each county and each of its offices has made any “one-size-fits-all” program not fit at all. I was thrilled to find that CHMI has put together a completely customizable wellness program geared toward small- to medium-sized businesses. It targets private business, however, because it can be adapted to many different situations and a variety of needs, I believe we can customize it for individual counties. One of the best aspects of the program is that there can be little to no cost to the county or its employees. The program includes simple ideas that with a little thought and planning, can be incorporated into the work day. Why should counties care about the health of their employees in the first place? The philanthropic answer to that question is simple: human compassion for the people we work with every day. While it’s true we care for our coworkers, counties and county officials have offices to run and jobs to do. So the financial bottom line answer to that question is that poor health costs businesses money — and that includes the business of county government. According to the Clinton Foundation, poor health and well-being costs businesses nationwide more than $153 billion a year in lost productivity due to time away from work. Those particular numbers pertain to the private sector. However, poor health and well-being costs our counties money, as well. The cost comes in the form of absenteeism and presenteeism (or employees that are on the job but not fully functioning due to illness or other medical conditions). According to CHMI, “Not only does poor health and well-being impact absences from work and productivity levels while on the job, it can reduce the likelihood of a person’s workplace engagement and retention.”

Savings times 2

What seems to be causing all these health problems? CHMI Wallet & waistline states, “There are key behaviors that are contributing to poor health and well-being. Workrelated stress is the leading workplace health problem and a major occupational health risk. Inactivity and poor nutrition further impact employees’ energy levels, with productivity levels dropping Becky Comet after extended periods of sitting AAC Member and poor nutrition impacting Benefits Manager productivity up to 20 percent.” CHMI’s approach to improving the health of employees begins with six simple steps. It recognizes that employers are in different phases of their well-being journey, so this cyclical approach is designed to be both flexible and adaptable with constant feedback, evaluation and refinement to align with your employees’ needs. I am in training to learn how to present and facilitate this program, so I don’t have all the answers yet. However, I am looking for a few counties that would like to come on board and pilot this program with me. Are your county’s employees interested in becoming healthier? Is your county interested in supporting its employees in becoming healthier? Can we build a team of people at all levels in various offices of your county that can put together a program that fits your county? If the answer to those questions is a resounding “yes” — or even a somewhat positive “maybe” — please contact me. Let’s talk and see if we can work together. Because Arkansas seems to come in at or near the bottom of all the health rankings, as leaders across this state we need to step up and lead the charge to encourage healthy living. It doesn’t have to cost money. A little thinking outside of the box can do the job. Why? Because our health really does matter. Contact information: Becky Comet 501-372-7550 bcomet@arcounties.org

www.arcounties.org COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017



CONFERENCE HOTEL RESERVATIONS The Little Rock Marriott Hotel (formerly the Peabody) will be the host hotel for this year’s conference. The Marriott anchors the Statehouse Convention Center and is within walking distance of the wonderful River Market District and Clinton Presidential Library, as well as direct access to the Arkansas River Trail. There will be valet parking available at the hotel for a fee. Self-parking is available at a reduced rate of $7 per day (with validated ticket) at the following parking garages: • The Convention District Parking Garage located at 2nd & Main streets (No. 7 on the map available at www.arcounties.org). • The Robinson Garage under the Doubletree (No. 1 on the map available at www.arcounties.org). • The River Market Garage (No. 8 on the map available at www.arcounties.org). To make your room reservations, please call the Marriott Hotel directly at 1 (877) 759-6290. Reservations must be made before July 10. After this date, the room blocks will be released to the public. When making your reservation, please state that you are with the Association of Arkansas Counties group.

The Marriott Hotel

Single Rate

Double Rate

Triple Rate

Quad Rate





++ This rate does not include applicable sales taxes There are numerous other hotels in the area. While there will be no transportation provided between the other hotels and the convention center, the Little Rock and North Little Rock area is served by a trolley system. Other area hotels: Doubletree Hotel: (501) 372-4371 Courtyard by Marriott: (501) 975-9800 The Capital Hotel: (501) 374-7474

Hampton Inn & Suites: (501) 244-0600 Wyndham Riverfront: (501) 371-9000 Residence Inn: (501) 376-7200

PLEASE REMEMBER – YOU MUST MAKE YOUR OWN ROOM RESERVATIONS. AVAILABILITY IS BASED ON FIRST COME – FIRST SERVED 19th Annual Randy Kemp Memorial Scholarship Fund Golf Tournament Join us at 12 p.m. Tuesday, August 8, 2017 Country Club of Arkansas, Maumelle • • • • • •

Contact Karan Skarda for more information at (501) 372-7550 or kskarda@arcounties.org

Shotgun start at 1 p.m. Two-person scramble format $80 per person All proceeds benefit the Randy Kemp Memorial Scholarship Fund Includes cart, green fees, lunch, balls, beverages, snacks, goodie bag Prizes awarded for 1st-, 2nd- & 3rd-place teams in each flight

REGISTER ONLINE AT WWW.ARCOUNTIES.ORG Registration deadline is August 1


49th ANNUAL CONFERENCE Little Rock Marriott/ Statehouse Convention Center August 9-11, 2017

PRE-REGISTRATION Received Before 8/4/17 $125.00 officials, employees, guests $ 80.00 spouses $145.00 non-members

ON-SITE REGISTRATION Received After 8/4/17 $145.00 officials, employees, guests $100.00 spouses $165.00 non-members





(Make Check Payable to: Association of Arkansas Counties)


RETURN THIS COMPLETED FORM TO AAC, 1415 WEST THIRD STREET, LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS, 72201, ALONG WITH A PAYMENT MADE PAYABLE TO THE ASSOCIATION OF ARKANSAS COUNTIES NO LATER THAN AUGUST 4, 2017. Refund Policy: If you notify the AAC Office before 4:30 p.m. on Friday, August 4, you will receive a refund on your conference registration fees. If notification is not made by this time, a refund will not be processed under any circumstances.

MAIL TO: Association of Arkansas Counties

Annual Conference 1415 West Third Street Little Rock, Arkansas 72201

At Nationwide,® participant priorities are our priorities. We help America’s workers prepare for and live in retirement — and that means making your participants’ needs #1. From enrollment through retirement, our people, tools and education surround and support participants so they can confidently make smart decisions.

To find out more about how we put participants first, contact: Fran Walker 501-944-2287 walkerf6@nationwide.com www.nrsforu.com/plansponsor

Nationwide, through its affiliated retirement plan service and product providers, has endorsement relationships with the National Association of Counties and the International Association of Fire Fighters-Financial Corporation. More information about the endorsement relationships may be found online at www.nrsforu.com. Nationwide, its agents and representatives, and its employees are prohibited by law and do not offer investment, legal or tax advice. Please consult with your tax or legal advisor before making any decisions about plan matters. Retirement Specialists are registered representatives of Nationwide Investment Services Corporation, member FINRA. Nationwide and the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2015 Nationwide NRM-10021M9 (04/17)

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he AAC Risk Management Fund is managed by a Board of Trustees comprised of YOUR county colleagues. As a fund member, YOU help develop the fund’s products that meet the needs of our unique and valued county resources and employees. Our latest added benefit came to fruition in a partnership with Guardian RFID inmate tracking systems. All AACRMF member counties will reap the benefits of this cutting-edge system.This unique tool exceeded the needs and met the concerns of many members in regards to the challenges in county jails. e listened and now we’re proud to welcome this product to the Risk Management Fund program, and we look forward to a continued partnership with all of you.



n Guardian Inmate tracking system GUARDIAN RFID is 20x faster and more defensible than barcode.

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Accessing your ordinances is made efficient by AAC compiling your substantive county ordinances and codifying them into a single-bound volume.

Debbie Norman RMF Director 501.375.8247

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County officials meet for General Assembly recap

The Association of Arkansas Counties welcomed county officials May 11-12 to review acts passed during the 91st Arkansas General Assembly. Top left: AAC Legal Counsel Lindsey Bailey gives an overview of the act concerning homestead property tax credit eligiblity that will affect county assessors. Top right: State Rep. Karilyn Brown (District 41) addresses a question pertaining to an act regulating the use of autocycles. Middle: Risk Management Attorney Mike Rainwater, middle, chats with AAC Chief Legal Counsel Mark Whitmore and Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon. Bottom left top: Pulaski County Deputy Treasurer Bentley Hovis, Randolph County Collector Norma Pickett and Randolph County Assessor Stacy Ingram chat. Bottom left bottom: Attendees listen intently as AAC staff leads a discussion. Bottom right: Executive Director of the Arkansas Sheriff’s Association, Mike Godfrey, explains an act that authorizes the issuance of a digital copy of an Arkansas driver’s license. 30



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Top left: AAC Executive Director Chris Villines welcomes county officials to the legislative recap meeting. He is joined by AAC Board Vice-President and Randolph County Circuit Clerk Debbie Wise, AAC Chief Legal Counsel Mark Whitmore, AAC Governmental Affairs Director Josh Curtis, AAC Legal Counsel Lindsey Bailey and AAC Consultant Eddie Jones. Top right: Debbie Wise, who also serves as chair of the AAC Legislative Committee, leads a follow-up discussion as the meeting closes. Middle left: AAC Chief Legal Counsel Mark Whitmore reviews an act that created the Used Tire Recycling and Accountability Program. Middle right: Saline County Judge Jeff Arey chats with AAC Executive Director Chris Villines. Bottom lef: AAC Consultant Eddie Jones reviews the act that amends the requirements for the delivery and storage of ballot stubs that will affect county treasurers. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017



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Above: The 1939 Hempstead County Courthouse, which has served its constituents for 80 years, stands a symbol of Hope’s historic drive to become the county seat. Below right: The building is a marvel of Art Deco architecture that features a raised detail around the front doors.

Preserving History Hempstead County is unique in that it still holds all three of its historic courthouses. Story by Mark Christ s Photos by Holly Hope Arkansas Historic Preservation Program


he history of Arkansas’ county courthouses is rife with tales of disastrous fires claiming the seats of government, or of older structures being replaced as the needs of the county outgrew the space available. It is somewhat amazing, then, that Hempstead County still holds all three of its historic county courthouses. Hempstead County was created before Arkansas even became a territory when the Missouri territorial legislature carved Hempstead, Clark and Pulaski counties from Arkansas County in late 1818. Court was first held at the home of John English, about eight miles north of Washington, but by 1825 it had moved to the small town on the Southwest Trail. For a decade, court met in a small 32

frame building that Tilman L. Patterson had built, but its size forced county officials to rent rooms from local businessmen any time a grand jury was held. In 1835, the decision was made to construct a new and larger courthouse. Patterson supervised the construction of a two-story, wood-frame building, which cost the county $1,850, plus $300 that went to William H. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017


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Left: Construction of this Hempstead County Courthouse, supervised by Tilman L. Patterson was completed in 1836. The two-story, woodframe building, which cost less than $2,000, was located in Washington, Ark., the former Hempstead County seat. Right: The 1836 courthouse featured a courtroom on the first floor and offices on the second floor. The courthouse became the Confederate State Capitol in 1863.

Whitson for building and installing shutters. Completed in 1836, the Hempstead County Courthouse held a courtroom on the first floor, while county officials had offices on the second floor, which also featured meeting space for Mount Horeb Lodge No. 4, Free and Accepted Masons. A separate building was constructed for the county clerk, and records were kept there. The courthouse became the Confederate State Capitol after Union forces took Little Rock on Sept. 10, 1863, and served in that capacity until the war ended in mid1865, after which the Twelfth Michigan Infantry Regiment used it as a jail during its post-war occupation of Washington. When a new courthouse was built in 1874, the county sold the 1836 building to the Washington Male and Female Academy for $1,375, and it was used as a school until a new brick school was erected in 1914. The old courthouse slowly deteriorated until 1928 when the United Daughters of the Confederacy successfully lobbied the state General Assembly for $5,000 to rehabilitate the building — the first money ever appropriated for a historic preservation project. It was used as a museum, and in 1973 became part of Old Washington State Park (now Historic Washington State Park). In the mid-1990s, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism restored the first Hempstead County Courthouse to its 1836 appearance, as it continues to welcome visitors more than 180 years after its construction. As mentioned earlier, Hempstead County leaders had decided by the 1870s that a new courthouse was needed. In June 1872, County Judge George H. Martin ordered COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017

$50,000 appropriated for construction of a new courthouse and jail in Washington. The county hired Green & Son, a Little Rock architectural firm, to design the new building. The result was a gorgeous example of Italianatestyle architecture, with tall, narrow windows topped by heavy hood molding, brackets in the eaves, and a cupola with a mansard roof providing a Second Empire-style influence. Ezekiel Treadway was the low bidder for the courthouse project at $18,650. After completing the new jail in 1874, Treadway tackled the courthouse, which was completed by early 1875, though costs had risen to $21,454.34. Even as the new courthouse was completed and put into service, a new town called Hope was developing along the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. In 1878, an election was held to decide whether the new railroad town should serve as the county seat. Hope lost that election, as it did other county seat elections in 1882, 1910 and 1914. In April 1838, the city of Hope accepted title to the old Garland School and offered the site as a location for a new courthouse. A June 11, 1938, election resulted in Hope finally winning the county seat, and the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the results on May 11, 1939. The stately 1874 Hempstead County Courthouse was turned over to the Washington School District, which later sold it to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism for $10,000. The Italianate-style icon now serves as the visitor center for Historic Washington State Park. See


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Continued From Page 33


Left: In 1872, the Hempstead County judge ordered money appropriated for a new courthouse. This building was completed in 1874 at a cost of less than $22,000. Right: The 1874 courthouse, an example of Italianate-style architecture, featured an upstairs courtroom. The building eventually was sold to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. It now serves as the visitor center for Historic Washington State Park.

Even as the county seat case worked its way through the Arkansas court system, the people of Hope made plans for a new courthouse in the railroad town. Hope Mayor Albert Graves visited Washington, D.C., to lobby for a grant from the Public Works Administration, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, an effort that on Dec. 14, 1938, resulted in a $95,400 grant for the $198,450 project. An election was held on Nov. 8, 1938, and Hempstead County voters overwhelmingly approved construction and funding of the new building. The Grand Lodge of Arkansas laid the cornerstone on Nov. 29, 1939, continuing a century of Masonic partnership with Hempstead County’s courthouses. Construction was complete by April 30, 1940, and the first court sessions were held in the new building on May 13. Little Rock’s McAninch and Anderson architectural firm designed the building, creating an imposing Art Deco-style monolith. In addition to the vertical emphasis typical of the style, the four-story Hempstead County Courthouse 34

features stylized geometric details along its front façade as well as cast-concrete figurative panels flanking the front door displaying both classical themes and modern scenes of agriculture and industry; a stylized eagle serves as a lintel for the door. The interior features marble steps and wainscoting and decorative tile floors. The 1939 Hempstead County Courthouse has served its constituents faithfully for nearly 80 years, and in 2016 the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program awarded the county a $16,465 County Courthouse Restoration Grant, funded through the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, to prepare a master plan for the building’s preservation. However, the Hempstead County Quorum Court voted on Feb. 23, 2017, to purchase the former Farmer’s Bank Building in downtown Hope to serve as a new home for county government operations. The ultimate fate of the Hempstead County Courthouse, a symbol of Hope’s historic drive to become the county seat and a marvel of Art Deco architecture, remains unknown. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017

AAC AAC a m i l yo n f e rr ei enncdes »



& F

Association of Arkansas Counties Workers’ Compensation Trust

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hen you participate in the A A C Wo r k e r s ’ C o m p e n s a tio n Tru s t, you can relax in the hands of professional staff members who are going to take care of your needs. The AAC team has decades of experience in handling county government claims – t h e y ’ r e s i m p l y t h e b e s t a t w h a t t h e y d o ! Did we mention that participants in our plan are accustomed to getting money back? Since we started paying dividends in 1997, the AAC Workers’ Compensation Trust has declared almost $ 2 6 MI L L I O N dollars in dividends, payable to members of the fund. In fact, we mailed $1,000,000 in savings back to member counties in August 2014.

The service is available for any size county government and other county government-related entities. We’ve got you

c ov e r e d!

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1415 West Third Street • Little Rock, Arkansas 72201

Brandy McAllister

Updates, corrections for AAC, judges’ directories 2017-2018 AAC Directory Benton County

James “JD” Hays replaces Barney Hayes as District 3 JP

Boone County

Circuit Clerk is Rhonda L. Watkins

Bradley County

Drew County

Sheriff’s email: mark.gober@ymail.com

Fulton County

District 1 JP is Cris Newberry District 4 JP is Seth Martin

Garland County

John Horner replaces Rebecca Arguello as District 5 JP

Grant County

Collector email: bradleycollector@yahoo.com Coroner fax: (870) 226-3435 Coroner address: P.O. Box 751, Warren, AR 71671

Laith Adams replaces Louise Lavelle on quorum court

Calhoun County

Add Cherry Stewart, District 2 JP

Sheriff email: calcoso1@yahoo.com Collector email: cccollector1@sat-co.net

Calhoun County

Collector email: kayphill@cctc.arcoxmail.com

Chicot County

Jimmy Parkerson replaces Jerry Melton as District 2 JP

Clark County

Sheriff’s email: jason.watson@clarkar.us

Clay County

Collector email: corningclaycocollector@hotmail.com

Cleveland County

Zip code at top of page should be 71665

Howard County

Coroner email: hccoroner@sbcglobal.net

Izard County

Jack Yancey to serve out Sheriff Tate Lawrence’s term

Jackson County

Collector email: kellyrwalker@hotmail.com

Miller County

Circuit Clerk email: mpankey@mcarcircuitcourt.com

Newton County

Interim assessor is Janet Lager

Pike County

Columbia County

Coroner fax: (870) 285-2626 Donnie Davis replaces Verl Stovall as District 6 JP

Conway County

Circuit Clerk’s last name is Russell, no longer Richardson Coroner phone: (870) 578-5270 Coroner fax: (870) 578-2116

Coroner fax: (870-901-8477 Coroner email: randymgn@icloud.com Lyn Story is District 10 JP, not David C. Graham Jr. Coroner phone: (501) 354-2411 Coroner fax: (501) 354-9647

Craighead County

Collector email: weddington@craigheadcollector.com

Cross County

Sheriff’s email: jrsmith5767@yahoo.com Coroner fax: (870) 238-5739

Desha County

Collector fax: (870) 877-3402 Assessor email: vpierce011@gmail.com 36

Hempstead County

Poinsett County

Pope County

Coroner fax: (479) 968-6142

Prairie County

Treasurer email: tamaragdabney@gmail.com

Randolph County

Coroner is: John Paul Thielemier Coroner phone: (870) 378-2980 Coroner email: randolphcocoroner@gmail.com

Searcy County COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017

Coroner is Doug Morrison Coroner phone: (870) 448-7383 Coroner address: P.O. Box 1201, Marshall, AR 72650 Add District 5 JP Donald Ragland

Sebastian County

Coroner fax: (479) 784-2630 Collector/Treasurer new email: jmiller@sebastiantreasurer.org

Sevier County

Judge new email: countyjudge@sevco.ar.gov County Clerk new email: countyclerk@sevco.ar.gov Treasurer new email: risa.krantz@sevco.ar.gov

Coroner fax: (870) 633-5048 Coroner email: clayfuneralhome@att.net

Van Buren County

Coroner fax: (501) 745-6792 Todd Burgess replaces James Kirkendoll as District 3 JP

Woodruff County

Circuit Clerk email: wcccourt@hotmail.com

Southeast Arkansas EDD

Beth Robertson is interim director Email: brobertson@seaedd.org

Sharp County

Judge’s name is Gene Moore (Photo is correct) Sheriff phone: (870) 994-7356 Collector fax: (870) 994-2769 Treasurer fax: (870) 994-7366 Treasurer email: wanda.girtman@arkansas.gov District 2 JP is Briana Diiorio Add District 7 JP Bart Schulz

St. Francis County

Coroner phone: (870) 633-8135

2017-2018 Judges’ Directory Cleburne County

Karl Martin is road foreman

Lawrence County

Judge Thomison’s wife is Rita

COME ONE, COME ALL! 49th ANNUAL CONFERENCE Little Rock Marriott/ Statehouse Convention Center August 9-11, 2017

Turn to page 26 for details.

Register Online www.arcounties.org COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017




Relief • Recovery • Resilience Arkansas counties devastated by flooding look to rebuild. Story by Holland Doran AAC Communications Coordinator


ounties in Arkansas took a major hit in May as more than eight inches of rain caused rivers to rise, flooding cities, homes and businesses. Among the hardest-hit counties were Randolph, Clay, Lawrence, White and Prairie. The disaster may have knocked down local residents, but they didn’t stay down for long. Their strength and resilience has propped them back up and moved them toward recovery. Randolph County Judge David Jansen said it was remarkable to see residents of his county, Arkansas and nearby states step in to help without missing a beat. “When you get in a situation like this, folks pull together and that’s what keeps you going,” he said. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson toured flooded areas in Northeast Arkansas twice, the second time accompanied by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and members of the Arkansas Congressional delegation. The severity of the damage led the governor to issue disaster declarations for a total of 36 counties and two cities. These included Baxter, Benton, Boone, Carroll, Clay, Cleburne, Conway, Craighead, Cross, Drew, Faulkner, Fulton, Greene, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Mississippi, Monroe, Montgomery, Newton, Ouachita, Perry, Prairie, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Searcy, Sharp, Stone, Washington, White, Woodruff and Yell counties. The cities were Little Rock and North Little Rock. Hutchinson dispatched more than 120 Arkansas Army 38

and Air National Guardsman and 25 guard vehicles to aid with high water rescue and transport missions. They worked alongside the Arkansas State Police, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM), making more than 50 water rescues in Randolph County alone. Beside them stood countless numbers of local law enforcement officials, organizations, businesses and volunteers, all ready to help those in need. Judge Jansen said he saw hundreds of people, such as the Randolph County Ministerial Alliance, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, volunteer their time at shelters, feeding families and emergency workers. “We train for events like this, and I saw how everybody just put the puzzle together to make sure there was no loss of life,” he said. “That was our No. 1 goal, and we achieved that because our state and local agencies worked hand and hand.” In his May 12, 2017, radio address, the governor recalled the words of ADEM’s Deputy Public Information Officer Melody Daniel: “Arkansas as a state is resilient to disasters.” Randolph County Clerk Debbie Wise, who is vice-president of the Association of Arkansas Counties board of directors, echoed that sentiment. “Arkansans help each other … that’s just what they do,” she said. That’s exactly what Lawrence County Judge John Thomison said he witnessed — residents of Lawrence County and of neighboring counties quickly jumping in to aid those in need of food, shelter and transportation. “I am proud and humbled … it takes my breath away,” he said. “I’m not surprised by our citizens, I’m just in awe of COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017



Opposite page: Gov. Asa Hutchinson took an aerial tour of the flood-ravaged counties in Northeast Arkansas (Photo by Randall Lane, Governor’s Office) and declared disasters in 36 counties. Top, left: Volunteers turned the former Randolph County Nursing Home in Pocahontas (Randolph County) into a shelter. (Photo courtesy of Pocahontas Star Herald). Top, right: Volunteers unload provisions at the shelter. County judges said they were amazed at the number of people who volunteered to aid residents in need (Photo courtesy of Pocahontas Star Herald).

what they have done.” Thomison said he also was grateful to his fellow judges for providing support, and the timely help from state and local groups. “The ability to draw on my fellow judges has been huge and appreciated,” he said. “Our sheriff’s office, Arkansas National Guard, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, Arkansas State Police and other state agencies have been forefront and immediate.” Prairie County Judge Mike Skarda said the amount of help his county has received is inspiring. “Our people worked together, whatever it took,” he said. “Our road department built a huge levee to protect Des Arc. When we decided we needed to sandbag a house, 60 people would show up.” Wise said residents of Pocahontas, the seat of Randolph County, worked together like a large family. Even before the Black River swelled to more than 28 feet and caused nine levees to breach, they prepared for the inevitable by doing whatever they could to help their neighbors on the east side of town — the side that would see the most devastation. Residents drove trailer after trailer to homes, businesses and churches, picking up people and their belongings and moving them to higher ground. They also piled sandbags and dug dirt walls to keep the water out of buildings. This is not the first time Randolph, Lawrence and Prairie counties have endured historic flooding. A 2011 flood caused the White River to crest to 39.4 feet. Because of the devastation of the 2011 flood, Lawrence County was prepared to evacuate, Judge Thomison said. “It was striking that we received so much cooperation in the midst of this crisis,” he said. “The majority of people heeded our warnings, and this helped us a lot.” He and Skarda said agriculture took the hardest blow from the deep water, and their economy will suffer. The University COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017

of Arkansas Division of Agriculture estimated crop losses to be at least $64.5 million — and that number could rise. Arkansas farmers planted an estimated 1.2 million rice acres this spring. One of the key differences between the 2011 and 2017 floods is the timing. About 45 percent of the rice crop was in the ground when the levee system in Pocahontas ruptured in 2011, and widespread flooding occurred throughout the Mississippi Delta Region. This year, 89 percent of the rice crop had already been planted. Gov. Hutchinson and national lawmakers petitioned the federal government for flood-related agricultural aid, as agriculture insurance regulations gave farmers until June 9 to replant their crops. The Governor asked U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Perdue to extend that deadline. In late May, the USDA declared 23 Arkansas counties disaster areas and another 23 counties as continguous disaster areas. It gave farmers in eligible counties eight months to apply for emergency loans from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. In addition, the governor asked the Arkansas Development Finance Authority to allocate up to $5 million in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds to assist residents forced from their homes because of the flooding. “As you are aware, the recent flooding has devastated numerous counties across Arkansas, especially in the northeastern part of the state,” Hutchinson wrote in a letter to authority President Aaron Burkes. “Hundreds of residents in those counties fled their homes, and although many have returned, countless still need housing.” In addition, projects such as jail construction and courthouse renovation have been delayed in Lawrence County. And there is still a lot of cleaning and rebuilding to do in Randolph County. But life will move on after the flood, the Lawrence and Randolph county judges said. “We’ll rebuild and we’ll make it work,” Judge Jansen said. “We always have.” 39

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Hearts for Service

The AAC board of directors welcomed four new members in 2017. Continue reading to learn more about the county officials who represent their associations on the board.


Profiles by Christy L. Smith and Holland Doran AAC Communications Staff

ome boys want to be policemen or firemen when they grow up. Not Pulaski County Coroner Gerone Hobbs. At 12 he knew he wanted to investigate death. “I watched my grandmother take her last breath, and even though I was sad, I was like, ‘What is this death?’ I wanted to dig into death,” he said. After graduating from Lonoke High School, Hobbs joined the U.S. Army and worked in Mortuary Affairs at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. He began his career on the funeral home side of the business. However, he shifted to the coroner side when he learned more about forensics. Now he is in his fifth year as Pulaski County coroner. He previously worked as a field investigator for the Arkansas State Crime Lab, as a deputy coroner for Pulaski County, and as chief deputy coroner for Pulaski County. Hobbs is active in the Arkansas Coroners’ Association, having served as vice president for three years. He also sits on the legislative and continuing education committees. Hobbs was appointed to fill a vacancy on the AAC board this year, and he said he feels “honored.” “The importance of the AAC to me is incredible,” Hobbs said. “They have your rules and regulations. The AAC has it all for anybody that steps into county government.” Hobbs also is chair of the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency (ARORA) board, chair of Inner City Futurenet, past master of his Masonic Lodge, and an associate minister at St. Paul Baptist Church in Little Rock. Hobbs said his job can take an emotional toll, but it helps to have a strong support system — someone to talk to. “My staff, all of us, when it comes to children, that’s always a stressful time,” he said. Hobbs uses his position to help children. “I enjoy going to these high schools and these middle schools and talking to the kids about safety, especially to high school kids about driving. I’m passionate about the driving part because I lost a son in a car accident,” he said. Hobbs actually responded to that call, not knowing the victim was his son, 18-year-old Xavier, until he arrived at the scene of the accident. He said the event changed him and his approach to helping the families he encounters. “That day I understood my job,” he said. “People are at their lowest point [when a family member dies]. I was. My staff handled me with care. And that’s what we try to do with every family that comes through our office.” Hobbs and his wife, Courtney, have been married eight years. He has two other sons — Quincy, 25, and Courtlon, 7 — and two daughters — Ryen, 19, and Judyth, 11. 40

Hobbs has grown his staff during his tenure as coroner. When he was appointed to the position, he had only five deputies. Now the Pulaski County coroner’s office employs 13 people. Hobbs does not respond to calls much anymore. He stays busy writing coroner reports, issuing death certificates, conducting the day-to-day operations of his office and meeting with families. “People come in sometimes, and they just want to talk,” Hobbs said. “I love to help folks. I take it personally. I take my job personally.”

Gerone Hobbs Pulaski County Coroner COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017

year before being promoted to chief deputy. “I was very interested to learn everything,” DeShields said of that year. “I would stay and learn other people’s jobs.” She spent 13 years as chief deputy clerk and is now in her 15th year as circuit clerk. During that time, DeShields has made several innovations in her office. She implemented imaging in 2003, and the paperless system is a more efficient way of conducting business, she said. Customers with real estate records “don’t even have to wait on their documents. It’s instant recording.” Benton County also was the second county in the state to implement e-recording. “Pulaski County and I were pretty much in a race to be the first to e-record,” she said of her friendly competition with former Pulaski County Circuit/County Clerk Pat O’Brien. DeShields attended college to study elementary education but did not complete her degree. She has been married for 29 years to her high school sweetheart, Keith. They have two children — Keeshia, 25, who is secretary of the Benton County Quorum Court; and Josh, 20, who is a student at the University of Arkansas and plans to marry in the fall. Their 14-year-old Schnauzer, Pepper, is another beloved family member. DeShields is a member of First Baptist Church in Rogers, where she is an outreach coordinator. While her children were in school, she served on the school board. Few probably know about DeShields’ love of basketball. Her favorite NBA team is the Miami Heat, and she regularly plans springtime vacations to Miami so she can watch the Brenda DeShields Heat play on their home court. She has done so eight times. DeShields shares her love of basketball with her son. The Benton County Circuit Clerk two keep a list of which NBA home courts they have visited — a total of 13 so far. And they get NBA updates on their phones so they can keep up with players’ playoff chances. “I’m also proud of being a native of Benton County, so ith both of her children grown, Benton to be an elected official is very humbling and exciting to County Circuit Clerk Brenda DeShields has me,” DeShields said, noting that the favorite part of the job decided to expand her role in government. is “the interaction with the people and part of being someIn addition to representing the Arkansas thing good in the community.” Circuit Clerks Association When a circuit clerk seat on the AAC board, she is became available on the parliamentarian of her asAAC board, DeShields said hen you ... can step up and do sociation’s executive board. she was “intrigued.” She also is on the grant “I’ve been in county govsomething different, it just helps ernment for so long and so committee, legislative comactive in the Circuit Clerks mittee, continuing educayou grow even more in your capacity. Association. When this vation board and audit comcancy came open, I asked mittee. She was appointed more questions, and it was by the Governor to the Esomething I thought I would have an interest in. I wanted Recording Commission, of which she is chair; and she was to help with that relationship between the association and appointed by Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan the AAC, to make a difference.” Kemp to serve on the Criminal Code Committee, a subDeShields spent a good deal of time at the state Capitol committee of the state’s Court Automation Committee. during the 2017 legislative session. She said she enjoys be“We’re sort of in that empty nest stage,” DeShields said. ing involved with legislative issues. And that involvement “So now I have more time to spend here helping.” has helped her grow. DeShields’ love of learning kick started her almost 29-year “When you have the roles that you have, and you can step career in county government. She worked in the Benton up and do something different, it just helps you grow even County circuit clerk’s office as a criminal court deputy for a more in your capacity.”





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erving the people of Crittenden County is in Ellen treasurer at her daughter’s school, a member of the Trinity Steele Foote’s blood. She has been the Crittenden In The Fields Anglican Church and serves on its board. She County tax collector for the past 18 years and has and her husband coach their daughter’s basketball team, worked in the county clerk’s office for 10 — a total and she has served as treasurer for the Marion Chamber of of 28 years dedicated to Commerce for 18 years. county government. Foote jokingly exFoote has lived in plained that it was ineviou have to have a servant’s heart and realCrittenden County all of table that she was named her life — in both West treasurer because she is ize that you’re here to help people. Memphis and Marion. also the tax collector for She graduated from Marthe county. This unoffiion High School and atcial tradition began with tended Arkansas State University. the late Melton Holt who served as both tax collector and She and her husband, McVey Foote, have been together for treasurer. 17 years. They have a 12-year-old daughter, Claudia, who is However, Foote doesn’t see these roles as hardships. They named after Foote’s father, Claude Steele, a former justice of are a part of public service that she loves. the peace in the county. She loves her “big babies” Smokey “I love being in county government and helping all the and Lulu, two Great Pyrenees that are “spoiled rotten.” people of this county,” she said. Foote is president of the Arkansas Tax Collectors AssociaWith all the experience she has amassed, Foote has several tion, but her service does not stop at tax collector. She is the pieces of wisdom for those interested in government work. “You have to have a servant’s heart and realize that you’re here to help people,” she said. “It’s not easily done because you have laws to follow, and sometimes residents don’t like our answers. So, you have to have a tough skin.” There’s always something evolving in county government, especially as technology is slowly changing how county government operates. Foote is living some of these changes right now. “Crittenden County is trying to be more technology focused,” she said. “We are doing everything we can to help people pay their taxes, whether that’s online, phone or through applications. We have new software now that we didn’t have in the past. We’re evolving with the times.” There are challenges to her job, which keeps things interesting every day. “There’s always some new law that’s getting passed ... we’re always adding to our toolbox to make our jobs more efficient and streamlined,” she said. Now that the 2017 Legislative Session is over, Foote and Crittenden County are pleased to see a change in how mineral-producing counties will publish their minerals. “Counties can now publish their minerals online,” she explained. “This is going to save counties a lot of money in publications costs. This was the biggest bill that we hoped to see get passed.” When she’s not at work, she’s busy doing things for and with her family. They enjoy going to movies and watching and playing sports. Her daughter finished basketball and is now starting softball, which will keep the family busy. She also loves to travel to New Orleans, where she and her husband are members of The Krewe of Tucks. They also love to visit Petit Jean Mountain, Hot Springs and beaches. But her favorite destination is Little Rock, where her brother, Kevin, and his family live. Where does Foote see herself in 20 to 30 years? “We hope to be retired somewhere in New Orleans or the beach,” she said. “However, it’s probably more accurate to say we’ll be near our daughter.”


Ellen Foote Crittenden County Collector



She credits farm life for teaching her about hard work. And she uses these lessons even today as justice of the peace. “We had cattle and enjoyed everything pertaining to country life,” she said. “Growing up on a farm, you learn about hard work and the satisfaction of hard work.” After 18 years in Waveland, she married her husband, John Andrews, and moved to Booneville. They have two children and six grandchildren. Andrews has served as justice of the peace in Logan County for 17 years. So she knows the job like the back of her hand. But there was a time when a career in county government never crossed her mind. It wasn’t until a church friend who served on the quorum court piqued her interest in running for a position in county government. She then took a leap of faith and, to her surprise, ran unopposed and won election. She has run unopposed for the position for 17 years. “There is something new to learn during every one of our quorum court meetings —something I haven’t heard before,” she said. “I like every court member. Even if there is a disagreement, we still leave on good terms.” After 17 years, Andrews knows a thing or two about how county government works, and has several pieces of wisdom to share with others interested in working in public service. “Go into it with an open mind, and don’t have any preconceived notions of how it should work. Always be ready to learn something new,” she said. “First, it’s important to learn how government works. Also, be willing to listen to everyone’s concerns and make the best decision for the county that you can.” Along with serving as justice of the peace, she and her Jeanne Andrews husband owned an independent insurance agency for 30 Logan County Justice of the Peace years and have made a hobby out of traveling. One of their favorite things to do is flipping through their book of unusual places in Arkansas, picking a destination, packing a bag, and hitting the road for some fun. alk to Logan County Justice of the Peace Jeanne “Anywhere in northern Arkansas and the Ozark mounAndrews for a few minutes and you know right tains is beautiful. It doesn’t matter how often I go there, I away what gives her fuel for the job: helping see something new,” she said. “I love traveling to other cities the people of Logan County. and countries, but there’s nothing prettier than Arkansas.” “I want to make sure She admits she has our county is our No. a wilder side, though. 1 priority,” she said. o into it with an open mind, and don’t have If she had the oppor“We work hard to give tunity to skydive, she any preconceived notions of how it should Logan county resiwould take it … even dents the services they though her husband work. Always be ready to learn something new. need and want while isn’t so crazy about it. keeping our county fi“Skydiving is on my nancially sound.” bucket list,” she said. Andrews grew up on a farm in the rural community of “But my husband said that it’s definitely not on his.” Andrews’ says she looks forward to working on important Waveland, Arkansas. She spent many days with her three siblings exploring Blue Mountain Lake and taking in the projects in the county, such as a new jail. And she intends to serve as justice of the peace as long as possible. view from atop Mount Magazine.





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AAC Hosts 2017 Safety Conference Top left: AAC Loss Control Specialist Barry Burkett, wearing his pink safety vest, welcomes county officials and employees to AAC’s 2017 Safety Conference organized by ACC’s Risk Management Services team. Top right: More than 90 people from across Arkansas filled the AAC conference room to learn workplace safety tips and procedures. Middle left: Capt. Richard Mitcham, Union County jail administrator and president of the Jail Administrators Association, teaches conference attendees best practices of preventing altercations in the jail. Middle right: Kevin Looney, Arkansas Occupational Safety and Health safety manager at the Arkansas Department of Labor, explains Lock-out/Tag-out, a program designed to safeguard employees from unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment. Bottom: Pat Hart, director of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission’s Health and Safety Division, shares tips for reducing workplace accidents. 44



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Quorum Court 75-member body holds annual Saturday meet Top left: As part of his welcoming remarks on Saturday, April 15, AAC Chris Villines recognized justices of the peace who had served on their county quorum court for more than 30 years to stand and be recognized. Nevada County Justice of the Peace Curtis Lee Johnson has begun his 38th year serving the residents of his district. Top right: RMS Counsel Mike Rainwater shared insight on building common goals. Middle: The 75-member Quorum Court Governing Body held elections for its officers during the meeting. A group of District 4 JPs wait to hear the results of their vote. Bottom right: District 3 justices meet to discuss their nominations for district representative. The votes were cast by ballot. Later in the day, Boone County Justice of the Peace David Thompson (left) was re-elected board president, and Washington County Justice of the Peace Eva Madison (right) was re-elected secretary. Pulaski County Justice of the Peace Paul Elliott was elected to serve as vice president of the board. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017



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Collectors hold their Spring 2017 meeting at DeGray Lake Resort Top left: Mike Harbour with Harbour Resources speaks to collectors on the topic “Collaboration within the Courthouse.” As part of his presentation, Harbour divided the collectors into four groups based on personality traits such as “people-oriented” or “task-oriented.” He then focused on how each of the four groups communicates and how the different groups could better communicate with one another. Top right: Pictured are members of one of the four groups formed during Harbour’s “Collaboration within the Courthouse” presentation. Middle right: AAC Governmental Affairs Director Josh Curtis provides collectors with an update on legislation that was passed during the 91st General Assembly. Bottom right: Craighead County Collector Wes Eddington listens to a presentation by employees of the Pulaski County Collector’s office. Pulaski County Deputy Collector Bentley Hovis and Pulaski County Delinquent Tax Manager Melissa Blue delivered two presentations the last morning of the meeting: “Delinquent Businesses” and “Step-by-Step Procedure to Bankrupties.” In the “Delinquent Businesses” discussion, they offered strategies for collecting delinquent taxes from business entities. 46



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Coroners meet for Aquatic Death course in April Top: Lifeguard Systems conducted and Aquatic Death and Homicidal Drowning Investigations class for Arkansas coroners April 18-19. Instructor Andrea Zaferes referenced a real-life case in order to teach the group about investigating such cases. Bottom left: Caddo Parish, Louisiana, Coroner Erin Deutsch, who attended, is pictured with Saline County Coroner and Coroners’ Association President Kevin Cleghorn. Bottom right: Sharp County Coroner Renee Clay-Circle volunteers for a demonstration. The Arkansas Coroners’ Association has held several continuing education classes for its members this year. In addition to the Aquatic Death and Homicidal Drowning Investigations course, coroners have participated in Crime Scene Photo, Medicolegal Death Investigation (MDI) and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Investigation (SUIDI) courses. Here are a few upcoming classes:

June 15-16, SUIDI, North Little Rock July 7-9 and 22-23, AR-MDI, Jonesboro COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017



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Little River County celebrates sesquicentennial

Little River County celebrated its 150th birthday March 3-4, 2017. The sesquicentennial celebration, held on the courthouse lawn, included vendors, 19th-century games, historic reenactments, music, historical demonstrations and more. March 3 also was the 125th birthday of the city of Ashdown and the 110th birthday of the Little River County courthouse. Top: Many Little River County officials dressed in period costumes, including Little River County District Judge John Finley. Finley delivered a detailed history of the county to those in attendance. Among those who attended were county officials from neighboring counties. Right: Sevier County Judge Greg Ray (left) and Hempstead County Judge Haskell Morse (right) attended the celebration to show their support for Little River County Judge Mike Cranford (middle). 48



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Top left: State Sen. Jimmy Hickey attended the event and presented Judge Cranford with a citation from the Senate. Top right: State Rep. DeAnna Vaught chats with Little River County officials before presenting the judge with a citation from the state House of Representatives. MIddle left: Little River County Judge Cranford displays one the citations he received. Fourth District Field Representative of U.S. Congressman Bruce Westerman’s office also presented the judge a copy of the Congressional Record honoring Little River County. Middle right: County officials unveil a sesquicentennial monument. Right: A dutch oven cooking demonstration was among the historical demonstrations that took place during the celebration. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017



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Circuit Clerks incorporate Capitol visit into March meeting Right: AAC Governmental Affairs Director Josh Curtis, who is liaison to the Arkansas Circuit Clerks Association, and circuit clerks who attended the March meeting pose for a photo on the stairway leading to the House chamber. Bottom left: Baxter County Circuit Clerk Canda Reese takes a photo of Benton County Circuit Clerk Brenda DeShields, who is association paliamentarian and an AAC board member, and her chief deputy, Kerry Hensley. Bottom right: Circuit Clerks Association President Alice Smith, the Monroe County circuit clerk, State Commissioner of Lands John Thurston and AAC Board of Directors Vice-President and Legislative Chair Debbie Wise, the Randolph County circuit clerk, attend the legislative luncheon hosted by the association.

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Communications Coordinator — Holland Doran Family information: My husband, James Doran, and I met at Ouachita Baptist University and have been married for seven years. We live in Bryant with our daughter, Lindsy, and our spoiled puppy, Ace. I call Nashville, Arkansas, in Howard County, my home and visit my family there as often as I can.

been offered opportunities to further my love of learning, writing, and developing new friendships. The hardest thing I have ever done: Balancing work and home life while my husband studied for his master’s degree, while also going through the process of adopting our daughter. It was challenging at the time, but it has only made us stronger as a family.

My favorite meal: Without a doubt, my favorite meal is my grandmother’s traditional Thanksgiving spread. I especially love her stuffing, sweet potatoes with brown sugar, and pumpkin pie topped with a large dollop of Cool Whip. When I’m not working I’m: Shopping with my daughter and mother, walking our puppy at the park, reading books, listening to interesting podcasts, and watching Netflix.

At the top of my bucket list is to: Tour the beautiful Scottish Highlands, especially the historical castles and the mysterious Loch Ness. Hollan d Dora n

The accomplishment of which I am most proud: I am proud to have the opportunity to see my daughter become a strong and beautiful woman. I am also proud to have

You might be surprised to learn that: I am an only child, but I’m not spoiled … too much.

My pet peeve is: Seeing litter on the ground, especially near a trash can. Motto or favorite quote: “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” — Malala Yousafzai

Law Clerk — Awni Filat Family information: I come from a family of five, and I’m the oldest of three siblings in my household. I have a younger sister and brother who love me and hate me at the same time. My family is originally from Israel, and I really enjoy the culture and food that comes along with it. My favorite meal: Whatever MiddleEastern meal my grandmother makes me for the week.

Motto or favorite quote: “The seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake.” — Sebastian in “The Little Mermaid” Awni F ilat

The hardest thing I have ever done: Give up trickor-treating. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017

You might be surprised to learn that: I used to play the French horn and was good at it. My pet peeve is: When someone says they’re five minutes away when they’re really still in the shower

When I’m not working I’m: Getting huge at the gym, or chillin’ with the bros. The accomplishment of which I am most proud: Currently, I’m most proud of almost completing law school without being held back.

At the top of my bucket list is to: Travel and visit as many places as I can so I can find myself and see everything from different perspectives.

How long have you been at AAC and can you describe some of your successful AAC projects? I’ve been here for almost a month and I’ve enjoyed learning something new every day with the help of the other law clerks. 51



Executive Summary Counties provide front line support for the health, safety and prosperity of communities and residents. But they are struggling to deliver essential services around the country. States increasingly limit counties’ capacity to raise adequate revenue to fund their activities. At the same time, state and federal governments are imposing more mandates on counties, without providing adequate funding. Counties have adopted additional fiscal solutions, but they are not sufficient to cover the needs of their residents and communities. NACo conducted interviews with state associations of counties and state and county officials in each of the 48 states with county governments between February and July 2016 to better understand county funding sources, state revenue limits, federal and state mandates on counties, new fiscal challenges and county fiscal solutions. Supplemented by additional research of state statutes, tax codes and local government finance literature, this analysis shows that:


STATES ARE LIMITING COUNTIES’ REVENUE AUTHORITY TO FUND ESSENTIAL SERVICES. Property taxes and sales taxes are the main general revenue sources for most counties. While counties in 45 states collect property taxes, most often they keep less than a quarter of the property taxes collected in a state (23.7 percent). The bulk of property taxes in a state (49.9 percent) goes to schools. Forty-two FORTY-TWO (42) STATES PLACE (42) states place limitations on county property LIMITATIONS ON COUNTY tax authority and the number of restrictions has expanded extensively since 1990s. Nearly half (45 PROPERTY TAX AUTHORITY percent) of current state caps on county property taxing authority have been enacted or modified 29 STATES AUTHORIZE since 1990. Only 29 states authorize counties to COUNTIES TO COLLECT SALES collect sales taxes, but with restrictions. Twentysix (26) impose a sales tax limit and 19 ask for voter TAX approval.


COUNTIES ARE STRUGGLING WITH MORE STATE AND FEDERAL MANDATES, NOT FULLY COVERED BY STATE AND FEDERAL AID. Many county services are mandated by the states or the federal government, from activities in criminal justice and public safety, health and human services, transportation and infrastructure, to administration of elections and property assessments. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations comprise the federal mandate burden most likely to be cited by the state associations of counties and other officials interviewed. According to the interviews, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of states have escalated the number and/or cost of mandates for counties, over the past decade, decreased state funding to counties over the past decade or done a combination of both.


COUNTIES ARE ADJUSTING TO NEW FISCAL CHALLENGES ON THE HORIZON. Several developments are challenging local fiscal conditions across the nation. Marijuana legalization provided a new revenue stream for counties in five of the 25 states that passed this measure before November 2016 elections, but costs associated with potential substance abuse problems and driving under the influence may prevent counties from receiving a net financial benefit from this new source of revenue. In 14 states, plummeting prices for oil and natural gas over the past two years have erased

Editor’s Note: As a nationwide study, “Doing More With Less” refers to some services and functions that Arkansas counties NATIONAL COUNTIES |ANOVEMBER 2016 county sales tax authority on page 12 do not provide even though counties in ASSOCIATION other states do.ofCorrection: map concerning 1 shows that in Arkansas a local sales tax is permitted without voter approval. However, this information is incorrect.

much of the annual severance tax revenue received by counties. The “sharing economy,” a technological development best exemplified by AirbnB and Uber, is challenging county revenue structures. According to the interviews with the state association of counties and other officials, counties in nine states are experiencing fiscal losses because of home sharing. The rapid proliferation of “dark store” big-box retailers’ property valuation appeals is another issue confronting counties in more than 12 states. This approach argues for use of vacant big box stores as comparables for the assessment of operating retail store locations.


COUNTIES ARE PURSUING VARIOUS SOLUTIONS TO ENSURE QUALITY SERVICE DELIVERY DESPITE FISCAL CONSTRAINTS. Counties throughout the country partner with cities, other counties, nonprofit organizations and the private sector to deliver high-quality services to their residents in a cost efficient manner. For example, Iowa counties are part of more than 23,000 agreements with other local governments for service delivery ranging from ambulance services to public libraries. Further, 37 states grant counties the authority to create and/or manage special-purpose tax districts to fund specific services. In 22 of the 37 states, counties must first obtain voter approval. Finally, some states have passed legislation specifically meant to curb the imposition of unfunded mandates. For example, the Alabama Constitution requires a two-thirds approval of any such mandate by the state legislature; furthermore, the state cannot enforce the mandate until the following fiscal year. County government roles and responsibilities continuously evolve as local conditions and needs change with shifting economies, aging populations or overburdened infrastructure. Local elected officials understand best the impact of legislation or administrative regulations on the county economy and county government budget. Counties need the state and the federal governments to provide full funding to cover for the compliance costs with the mandates they impose. Likewise, increased county autonomy regarding revenue generation and service provisions would relieve some of the fiscal pressures. The continued partnership with the state and federal governments is essential to counties’ ability to effectively and successfully support thriving communities across the country.



INTRODUCTION County governments directly affect the economic vitality and quality of life in their communities. This role encompasses a range of services, from maintaining 45 percent of America’s roads to supporting nearly 1,000 hospitals to keeping communities safe through law enforcement. These services require massive resources including more than $106 billion annually in building infrastructure and maintaining and operating public works, more than $53 billion annually in construction of public facilities and nearly $70 billion annually for community health and hospitals. 1 The increasing extent of state limitations on counties’ capacity to raise revenue is making provision of these services more difficult. State limitations include restricting the types of taxes counties may impose, limitations on the rates of permitted taxes, the total revenue collected and property assessments, along with an obstacle-strewn approval process. Concurrent with these constraints, state and federal governments require counties to provide a growing scope of services. These mandates are often unfunded either entirely or partially. Revenue sharing by states and other state and federal funding for county services alleviate some of these mandate related costs. But in many instances, these supplementary sources have become more unpredictable and smaller in size. Overall, six years following the start of the Great Recession, fiscal tensions remain across counties, with inflation-adjusted general revenue fully recovered in only 46 percent of counties.2

State limitations include restricting the types of taxes counties may impose, limitations on the rates of permitted taxes, the total revenue collected and property assessments, along with an obstacle-strewn approval process.

Counties have adopted additional fiscal solutions, but they are not sufficient to cover the needs of their residents and communities. Some states allow counties and other local governments to create special-purpose taxing districts to fund specific services. But counties are also turning to more innovative solutions, such as service sharing and merged service provision with cities or other counties. Further relief requires both the state and federal government to curtail their reliance on unfunded mandates to accomplish policy objectives. Additionally, counties must be empowered to more ably self-govern including in matters related to revenue generation and provided the necessary funding to implement any additional mandates.

This study examines the pressure facing counties, including state limits on their ability to raise revenue and state and federal mandates. This includes a breakdown of county revenue sources. A discussion of the state limitations on property taxation and sales taxes follows. The report also examines the pervasiveness of state and federal mandates, which further complicate the fiscal dilemma. Lastly, several developing fiscal challenges are discussed along with some of the promising ways in which counties seek to overcome fiscal shortfalls. The reader can access the information for each state through interactive maps and individual state profiles at ww.naco.org/StateLimits and County Explorer available at explorer.naco.org






STATE GOVERNMENTS ARE LIMITING COUNTIES’ REVENUE AUTHORITY TO FUND ESSENTIAL SERVICES. Counties rely on two types of revenue to finance operations, services and other responsibilities: (1) revenues raised by the county from local taxes and user fees (referenced as “own funding”) and (2) funding from the state and federal governments. Most often, counties derive 76 percent of their annual revenues from own funding and the remaining 24 percent from intergovernmental transfers.3

Most often, counties derive 76 percent of their annual revenues from own funding and the remaining 24 percent from intergovernmental transfers.

COUNTY OWN FUNDING. Counties raise revenues locally either through taxes or user fees. Most often, the revenue raised through property taxes and other types of taxes are not restricted to a particular activity (called “general revenues”). By 2013, general revenues funded 62.5 percent of county expenses, an increase of 1.5 percentage points in the funding share from the prior six years. Of utmost importance are property taxes, which represent 72 percent of county general revenues. 4

Key Terms Used in this Study CHARGES OR FEES FOR SERVICES: Government charges for services provided or for the use of government assets, such as road tolls, park entry fees and parking charges. COUNTY GOVERNMENT: An organized entity with governmental character, sufficient discretion in the management of its own affairs to be an independent governmental unit and covering the geographical area of a county or county equivalent. Depending on the state, it can be known also as parish government or borough government. There are 3,069 county governments in the United States, including city-county consolidations, the District of Columbia and independent cities considered county governments under their state constitution or city charter. For ease of use, this study employs interchangeably “county” and “county government.”

Counties keep only a small portion of the property taxes they collect. Most often, counties keep only 23.7 percent of the property taxes collected statewide, the bulk of which (49.9 percent) go to schools (See Map 1). Many property owners may presume that the county government retains for its own use all of the property taxes levied on a particular parcel because counties often collect not just taxes levied by the county government, but also property taxes levied by a myriad of governmental entities. These entities with separate levies may include cities, municipalities, schools and special districts. For example, counties in five states (Ill., Mass., Mich., N.H. and N.Y.) retain less than 10 percent of the property taxes collected statewide.6










Note: Conn., R.I., and parts of Mass. have counties or county-equivalents with no county governments (marked in grey on the map). There was no data available for Maine and Vermont. Source: Figures reflect different fiscal years, as made available by interviewed state associations of counties and state and county officials in the states with county governments.

counties keep only 23.7 percent of the property taxes collected statewide.

Only 29 states permit counties to implement a local option sales tax. In 19 of these 29 states, voter approval is needed to implement a sales tax, difficult to obtain. For example, five N.C. counties attempted to pass a 2.5 percent sales tax (a rate approved by the state) in their March 2016 elections; all failed to secure a popular vote. In four states (Mo., Texas, Utah and Wis.), any implemented sales tax must decrease property tax levies to prevent an overall tax increase. Twenty-three (23) states authorize counties to implement a secondary sales tax for specific, statutorily defined purposes. This includes 19 of the 29 states allowing counties to implement a local option sales tax. Another four states (Hawaii, Ind., Md. and Minn.) permit counties to levy a sales tax for specific purposes, despite being precluded from levying a general sales tax. States often require voter approval for introducing these restricted purpose sales taxes or may ask the taxes to be implemented in increments of 0.1 percent, 0.15 percent or 0.25 percent.



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Key Terms Used in this Study CAPITAL EXPENDITURE: Expenditures related to construction, purchasing or renovations for capital assets. COUNTY-OWN FUNDING: Revenues raised by counties locally through taxes or user fees. This revenue may be classified as either general or restricted revenue. COUNTY EXPENSES: Includes expenses for primary government activities (such as judicial and public safety programs) and business-type activities (such as waste disposal and collection services). GENERAL REVENUES: Unrestricted revenues generated by taxes, unrestricted grants and contributions and in some counties, transfers and special items. JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY SERVICES: Includes sheriff, police and related services (impound, task forces, general law enforcement and patrol); emergency management and medical services; 911 communications; fire protection; detention centers and related commissaries, stores and inmate services. Also included in this class are judicial functions: judges; attorneys; prosecutors; justices; court clerks; probate courts; courthouses; warrant services and law libraries. PASSED-THROUGH FUNDS: Federal government funding used by counties, but received directly from the federal government by other entities, such as the state governments.

RESTRICTED REVENUE: Revenue which must be used to fund specific functions. TAX REVENUES: Revenue generated by the taxes levied by the county. Most common are property taxes (assessed ad valorem on property within county borders), sales and use taxes (imposed on sales of goods within the county, or on the use of personal property not subject to a sales tax; also includes taxes related to hospitality), other taxes (include specific ownership taxes, severance taxes, transfer taxes, litigation taxes, inheritance taxes, insurance premium taxes and others). Less common county taxes include excise taxes (levied on goods/services for the purpose of controlling their provision (e.g., motor fuel taxes), licenses and permits (taxes which may be imposed by a county on a given class of business type or occupation; includes business license taxes and professional taxes), franchise taxes (imposed on public utilities, or for the use of public rights-of-way) and income taxes (based on income earned within county borders).

Besides taxes, counties also raise use fees or charges for services, such as filing and permit fees and water rates. These revenue sources are restricted frequently to fund expenses related only to that service for which the county charges a fee. Most often, they cover about 18 percent of county expenses, mainly expenses for utilities and water, sewage and solid waste.7 For instance, Florida allows counties to impose a real estate conveyance fee, which must go towards the creation of housing opportunities for low-income residents. STATE AND FEDERAL FUNDING. States provide a variety of funding to counties. Many states distribute a share of the state’s general tax revenue to counties and other local governments. For example, Ohio and South Carolina accomplish this through a mechanism known as the Local Government Fund (LGF); this partially covers the county costs related to state-mandated programs. Some states transfer part of the state sales tax to counties through revenue sharing. Arizona counties receive approximately 13.5 percent of Ariz.’s state sales tax, an amount exceeding $744 million in fiscal year 2015. State income taxes are





sometimes shared as well; Illinois distributes one tenth of the revenue from the state income tax to local governments, including counties. States, such as Wyo. and Ky., also may share severance tax revenue. Oregon counties receive a portion of numerous state taxes, including the cigarette tax, liquor tax receipts, beer and wine taxes and video lottery receipts. The federal government also provides funds to counties, either directly or passed-through other entities, such as the state (called here, “passedthrough funds”). According to the single audits submitted annually by counties that used more than $500,000 in federal dollars in fiscal year 2013, only 14 percent of federal funding used by counties was received directly. Most of this federal passed-through funding is restricted, either matched to certain programs, or received as reimbursement for expenditures made in those programs. Some of the major federal programs from which counties receive money directly include: Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) ($ 452 million in FY2016), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) ($3 billion in FY2016), Secure Rural Schools (SRS) ($278 million in FY2015) and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) ($60 million in FY2015). Counties utilize funding from dozens of federal programs, often passed-through the state or other entities.

in fiscal year 2013, only 14 percent of federal funding used by counties was received directly.


The most used passed through federal funding streams to counties include the Medical Assistance Program ($24.8 billion in FY 2016), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medical Assistance Program ($5.7 billion in FY 2016), Foster Care Title IV-E ($2.1 billion in FY 2016), Highway Planning and Construction ($1.9 billion in FY 2016) and Child Support Enforcement ($1.4 billion in FY 2016).


In 42 states, the majority of federal funding used by counties was indirect. In Calif., La., Minn., N.Y., Ohio, Tenn. and Wis., more than 90 percent of federal funding used by counties was passed-through the state government or other entities.

Counties typically possess little discretion over where to utilize these financial resources. Most often, 93 percent of the state and federal funding used by a county is restricted to specific activities.8 For instance, the state of Washington provides funds to counties for criminal justice expenses related to prosecutors and judges in Wash. The state of Maryland has directed nearly $2.8 billion to counties over the past decade for public school construction. Because these funds are often in the form of earmarked grants for operational expenses or capital expenditures of specific activities, counties do not have the flexibility to reallocate funds for other local needs. STATES PLACE NUMEROUS LIMITS ON THE ABILITY OF COUNTIES TO RAISE REVENUE. Most states have limits on property taxes, the main general revenue source for counties. Of the 48 states with county governments, counties in 45 states collect property tax revenue (Maine, N.H. and Vt. are the exceptions). Forty-two (42) of these states place limitations on the ability of counties to generate revenue from property





Key Terms Used in this Study ASSESSED VALUE: The property valuation upon which the property tax rate is applied in order to determine the property tax owed for a given property. Valuation for property tax purposes is not necessarily indicative of the property’s true market value. Also known as “taxable value.” MILLAGE: Property tax assessed per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. PROPERTY TAX LEVY: The total amount of property taxes assessed on property within a particular jurisdiction in a given year.

PROPERTY TAX RATE: The rate which is multiplied by the assessed value of a piece of property to determine the amount of property tax payable by the owner. ROLLBACK: A downward adjustment to the property tax rate (millage) applied to assessed values in order to avoid exceeding state limitations on property tax growth. Alternatively, some counties may also roll back their property tax rate in order to achieve the same result.

TAX FREEZE: Maintenance of assessed property taxes at a current level by adjusting the assessed value and/ or millage.


No Limit

Pre 1990



After 2010

Notes: Year reflects latest change to state-imposed property tax limitations. Conn., R.I., and parts of Mass. have counties or county-equivalents with no county governments (marked in grey on the map). Source: NACo interviews with state associations of counties and state and county officials in each of the 48 states with county governments, research of state statutes, tax codes and local government finance literature.





taxes. This translates to 87 percent of counties facing at least one type of limit on their revenue authority through property taxes. These property tax limitations encompass the following manifestations: (1) rate limits, (2) levy limits, (3) assessment limits and (4) tax freezes and rollbacks. State property tax limitations have expanded extensively since the 1990s. Nearly half (45 percent) of current state caps on county property taxing authority have been enacted or modified since 1990 (See Map 2). Some state limitations on property tax rates date as far back as the late 1800s for counties in states like Ark., Mo., Texas and Wyo. After the 1940s, states moved away from restricting property tax rates and focused on capping property assessment valuations and tax levies. Thirty-eight (38) of the 50 state limitations enacted since the 1970s concerned county property assessment and levy limits. State restrictions on property assessment and property tax revenue growth were enacted as recently as 2012 in Ariz. and N.Y. PROPERTY TAX RATE RESTRICTIONS: (See Chart 1) The property tax rate is multiplied by the assessed value of a piece of property to determine the amount of property tax owed. Typically, property tax rates are expressed in millage rates, or ‘mills,’ or the dollar amount owed per $1,000 on the property’s assessed value.

CHART 1. PROPERTY TAX LIMITATIONS: DIVERSE AND WIDESPREAD Rate Limit Assessment Limit Levy Limit Property Tax Freeze Disclosure Requirements








Number of States Source: NACo interviews with state associations of counties and state and county officials in each of the 48 states with county governments, research of state statutes, tax codes and local government finance literature.

PROPERTY TAX RATE LIMITS. Most states restrict counties’ ability to raise the rate of property taxes (See Map 3). Restrictions on counties’ authority to set property tax rates affect counties in 35 states. In seven of these states (Ala., Alaska, Ariz., Ark., Ind., N.H., Ore., Vt., Wyo.), counties cannot exceed these statutory property tax rate limits under any circumstance.910 Seventeen (17) states with statutory tax rate limits allow the caps to be exceeded by voter approval only. In another four states (Iowa, Okla., Pa. and S.C.), counties may exceed property tax rate limits by board resolution. Counties in Calif., Key., N.M., Texas and Utah do not require either board resolution or voter approval to exceed these limits.



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Property tax rate limits are varied in nature. Some property tax rate limits are tied to the previous year’s tax rate and budgetary needs; others are a strict millage cap on property tax rates. For instance, Wyo. counties cannot impose a property tax rate above 12 mills, which is $1,200 annually for a property assessed at $100,000. Other states limit the aggregate property taxes collected by a given rate.11 In Alaska, the borough total tax rate cannot produce revenues greater than $1,500 per resident per year, regardless of the millage or the assessed value.12


No Authority To Levy Property Taxes Neither Property Tax Rate Nor Assessment Limit Only Property Tax Rate Limit Only Assessment Limit Both Property Tax Rate and Assessent Limit

Note: In Del., the state limit on property tax rates affect only Kent County. Conn., R.I., and parts of Mass. have counties or county-equivalents with no county governments (marked in grey on the map). Source: NACo interviews with state associations of counties and state and county officials in each of the 48 states with county governments, research of state statutes, tax codes and local government finance literature.

Property tax rate limits reduce the potential of property taxes to generate sufficient revenues for counties. These limits are particularly troublesome when the demand for county services exceeds significantly the rise in assessed property values, for example, when a county is adding population rapidly. LEVY LIMITS: Restrictions on counties’ authority to set levies affect counties in 30 states (See Map 4).13 Property tax levy limits restrict the allowable increase in aggregate property tax revenues generated by counties annually. This is the second most common statutory limit on county property taxing authority imposed by states. In five of these states (Ark., Del., Ind., N.M. and Pa.), counties may not exceed this limit for any reason. Counties in 20 states need to get voter approval to exceed the levy limit. In the remaining five states, counties may exceed this limit without voter approval. Levy limits vary in type. Certain levy limits cap property tax revenues to a fixed percentage annual increase. For example, counties in Ariz. cannot increase property tax revenues more than 2 percent annually; Nebraska counties’ levies may not increase more than 5 percent year to year. Other levy limits restrict






No Levy Limit Levy Limit, Can Exceed Without Vote Levy Limit, Can Exceed With Vote Levy Limit, Cannot Exceed

Note: Conn., R.I., and parts of Mass. have counties or county-equivalents with no county governments (marked in grey on the map). Source: NACo interviews with state associations of counties and state and county officials in each of the 48 states with county governments, research of state statutes, tax codes and local government finance literature.

property tax revenues based on inflation (such as Mich.) or tax base growth. In Mont., property tax revenues may only increase at half the rate of inflation over the past three years (although new construction is excluded from this rate increase limits). Indiana restricts property tax revenue growth to no more than the six-year average growth in personal income. PROPERTY ASSESSMENT LIMITS. In most states, the upwardly revised assessments must fit within a defined percentage. For instance, assessed values for properties in S.C. may not increase more than 15 percent over a five-year period. In Texas, assessed values of homestead properties may not increase more than 10 percent annually plus increases due to home improvements. Other assessment limits take inflation into account. The taxable value of a Mich. property may not increase more than 5 percent or inflation, whichever is less. Fifteen (15) states in which counties collect property taxes impose limits on property tax assessments increases. (See Map 3). The property assessment limits hurt counties especially during a real estate comeback after a deep decline. For example, home values declined significantly during the latest downturn at the end of the 2010s. While states often limit upward movement in property assessments, they do not limit losses. As a result, many counties have seen much lower assessment values and declines in property tax revenues. As property values rebound, property tax revenue does not rebound at the same pace due to these limits on property assessments, unless the property is sold and a new baseline assessment value is established.



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FREEZES AND ROLLBACKS. Six states (Ark., Ga., La., Tenn., Texas and Wash.) also have the option to freeze property taxes, and another 14 have the option to roll back property taxes if they exceed the state limitations. A property tax freeze adjusts either the assessed value of the property or the property tax rate in order to prevent the property tax assessed from increasing; a rollback adjusts the property tax rate (millage) in order to avoid exceeding state limitations on property tax growth. For instance, in Ark., the assessed value of real and personal property cannot increase by more than 10 percent over the previous year. If this does occur, the revenue is rolled back to the allowable limit to ensure that county revenues do not exceed the growth limit.14 DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS. In addition to property tax limits, 20 states have disclosure requirements, meaning counties must publicize or announce property tax increases. Often, they require notices published in the local newspaper. Minnesota requires that the county also hold a “truth-in-taxation” public hearing on tax increases and expenditure changes from the prior year.15

Key Terms Used in this Study LOCAL OPTION SALES TAX: A tax collected by a local government on the sale of any taxable goods within its jurisdiction, if the local government is granted the authority by the state. Besides state authority, often the local government needs a local law or voter approval to implement the local option sales tax.


No Local Sales Tax Permitted Local Sales Tax Permitted With Voter Approval Local Sales Tax Permitted Without Voter Approval

Note: Conn., R.I., and parts of Mass. have counties or county-equivalents with no county governments (marked in grey on the map). Source: NACo interviews with state associations of counties and state and county officials in each of the 48 states with county governments, research of state statutes, tax codes and local government finance literature.





SALES TAX LIMITS. Twenty-six (26) states set a local-options sales tax limit. Most often, the local-option sales tax limit is around 1.5 percent. Only three states, Ala., Alaska and Mo., do not restrict county localoption sales tax rates. Counties and boroughs in Alaska and Mo. must receive voter approval before the local-option sales tax takes effect, but counties in Ala. may institute the tax without voter approval. Few counties may exceed the sales tax cap with special authority. For example, counties in N.Y. may petition the state legislature to go above the 3 percent sales tax rate approved by the state before putting the proposed sales tax rate to popular vote. 16 (See Map 5). These many layers of limitations on county revenue authority hamper counties’ ability to service their communities. These state limitations force counties to prioritize spending in a manner often at odds with the community priorities, particularly when combined with unfunded mandates. Counties may be put in a difficult position to reduce or eliminate a program, because of insufficient revenue. These limitations hinder county elected officials and voters from engaging in self-governance.


COUNTIES ARE COPING WITH MORE STATE AND FEDERAL MANDATES, NOT FULLY COVERED BY STATE AND FEDERAL AID. Many county services are mandated by the states or the federal government, such as the administration of elections. In some states, counties are responsible for childhood education or even a portion of the community college costs. However, federal and state governments increasingly fail to provide counties with funds sufficient to cover the costs for mandated county services. Fifty-nine (59) percent of counties recorded dedicated grants covering a smaller percentage of county expenses between 2007 and 2013.17 When state and federal government funding for mandates diminishes, counties are forced to cover the shortfall with general revenues and user fees.

Key Terms Used in this Study ADMINISTRATION SERVICES: Includes general governmental staff, services and functions such as county commissioners; treasurers; auditors; county clerks; councils; tax assessors, collectors; record and deed preservation; as well as financial and legislative departments. This category excludes functions that are specific to other categories such as courts (Justice and Public Safety); education and school boards (Education); and public works (Other); but otherwise encompasses all other central, legislative and executive activities and staff of the local county government. DARK STORE METHOD: Valuation for property tax assessment purposes which assesses the value of currently operating “big-box” retail store locations as if they were vacant and closed.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Includes services related to healthcare (hospitals; mental health services; services for the physically disabled; indigent care; nursing, assisted living homes); veteran’s aid and services; pest, rodent, animal and weed control; animal shelters; environmental protection and improvement for purposes of public health; air pollution; welfare services; and child care and support. MANDATE: Services, functions, or processes required of county governments by instruction from state or federal government authority. Funding to fulfill these mandates may be either funded or unfunded by the imposing authority.



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Federal mandates impact the costs of many county functions and may emanate from statutory law or from federal agency rule making. With environmental issues, counties are often regulators, implementers of regulations and regulated themselves. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations are cited the most often as a federal mandate burden for counties by the state associations of counties and other officials interviewed. EPA clean water and air requirements affect local land use decisions and even postdisaster recovery efforts. A primary example is the use by the EPA of the Clean Water Act to issue storm water regulations impacting counties across the country. Further, EPA regulations affected negatively local economies relying heavily on mining, such as those in N.M. Regulations on federal lands are a major concern for counties in the West, but also counties in Miss. Land use regulations can diminish the revenue generating usages of public lands. For example, recently amended Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land use plans have excluded 2.8 million acres in three Nev. counties from future mineral extraction. State mandates prove troublesome as well. According to the interviews with the state associations of counties and other state and county officials, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of states are requiring counties to do more with what they have, decreasing state funding to counties or a combination of both. Over the past decade, counties in more than half of all states are experiencing a greater proliferation of mandates from states. Nearly half (45 percent) of state associations of counties reported counties receiving reduced state funding and facing more state mandates over the past ten years. (See Map 6).


Decreased Mandates AND Increased Funding Decreased Mandates OR Increased Funding No Change (or Increases/ Decreases in Both) Increased Mandates OR Decreased Funding Increased Mandates AND Decreased Funding

Note: Conn., R.I., and parts of Mass. have counties or county-equivalents with no county governments (marked in grey on the map). There was no data available for Massachusetts and Vermont. Source: NACo interviews with state associations of counties and state and county officials in each of the 48 states with county governments, research of state statutes, tax codes and local government finance literature.





State and federal mandates multiplied rapidly over the past decade, across a wide range of policy areas. Although justice and public safety is an area of shared responsibility, states consistently attempt to shift more of the burden to counties. Arkansas and Missouri have only partially compensated counties for the true costs of the increased number of prisoners sent to county jails by the state. Florida counties are responsible for the detention costs for juveniles on a pre-trial basis, state court costs and a portion of the state’s Medicaid costs for the incarcerated. The state of Michigan sets the salary and benefit rates for district court judges; funding for these courts is provided by counties in six of these districts. In Ariz., the state requires counties to provide a separate tech system for the courts, without providing the full funding to cover the cost. A cost shift is also occurring in the realm of health and human services. As an example, the state of New Hampshire transferred the cost of long-term care to counties following the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, without providing funding for the service. As a result, property taxes are increasing to cover the costs.18 The state of Georgia requires counties to share the cost of the state’s Health Department and the Department of Family and Children.

nearly threequarters (73 percent) of states are requiring counties to do more with what they have, decreasing state funding to counties or a combination of both.

Mandates enacted by state and federal legislators or issued by administrative agencies may advance important public interests. However, they need to be accompanied by financial resources for implementation. In many instances, the governmental entity issuing the mandate fails to provide the necessary resources, leaving counties to resort to general revenues raised from property taxes. Further, local communities are not being granted the opportunity to weigh the benefits against the increased tax burdens to implement state and federal mandates.


COUNTIES ARE ADJUSTING TO NEW FISCAL CHALLENGES ON THE HORIZON. Several developments are challenging local fiscal conditions across the nation. MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION. In 25 states and the District of Columbia (33 states following the November 2016 election), marijuana legalization promises to increase the flow of revenue into state coffers. However, costs associated with potential substance abuse problems (such as behavioral health, family services and law enforcement) may prevent counties from receiving a net financial benefit from this new source of revenue. Only five states (Calif., Colo., N.Y., N.C., Wash.) have revenue sharing agreements with counties for excise taxes on marijuana. This revenue sharing follows one of two models. First, the state of Washington shares a small portion of the excise tax with local governments opting to allow sale of marijuana for recreational purposes within their jurisdiction.19 Second, Colorado shares a portion of marijuana sales revenue only with the localities that have not approved recreational marijuana use and sale; these funds are intended to address local impacts of marijuana legalization from neighboring jurisdictions. In addition, Colorado granted counties the ability to collect their own excise taxes on retail marijuana sales with no rate limitation.20 At the same time, counties in all these states face the possibility of increasing expenses related to issues such as substance abuse or driving under the influence.



15 67

OIL, NATURAL GAS AND COAL PRODUCTION. The oil and natural gas production boom of the last 20 years brought an influx of revenue to counties in 14 states, which receive a portion of the severance taxes from oil and natural gas production. (See Map 7). The sharp drop in energy prices since mid-2014 is now resulting in less revenues for oil and gas counties (See Chart 3). For example, the revenues received by La. parishes from a state severance tax dedicated to counties declined by two-thirds between 2012 and 2015.21 Oil production taxes comprise the majority of state funding to Alaska’s boroughs; the decline in oil prices has forced the state to cut this funding to boroughs by half as of 2016.22 Tax revenue from coal production is also on the decline. West Virginia counties are receiving less funding from coal severance taxes, oil and gas severance taxes. Kentucky funding from state coal severance tax to counties has dropped 60 to 80 percent in 2016 compared to a decade ago.23


Does Not Receive Funding

Receives Funding

Note: Conn., R.I., and parts of Mass. have counties or county-equivalents with no county governments (marked in grey on the map). Source: NACo interviews with state associations of counties and state and county officials in each of the 48 states with county governments, research of state statutes, tax codes and local government finance literature.

SHARING ECONOMY. County tax systems have not integrated yet the sharing economy developments. Rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft are matching individual drivers with passengers. Airbnb and GuestHouser enable private homeowners to rent their residences overnight directly to individuals through online booking. According to the interviews with the state association of counties and other officials, counties in nine states are experiencing a fiscal impact from home sharing. Overall, 81 percent of counties collect occupancy taxes and those counties that largely rely on tourism may be significantly affected by home sharing arrangements.





Counties in at least 12 states are confronting valuation and assessment issues, including valuation appeals, due to the “dark store” method of assessing big-box stores.

DARK STORES. Counties in at least 12 states are confronting valuation and assessment issues, including valuation appeals, due to the “dark store” method of assessing big-box stores. This method values currently operating retail store locations for tax purposes as if they were vacant and closed; proponents argue that this real estate could not be sold near the cost of construction, since these stores were built out for particular purposes. Since the assessment of a closed location is far lower than that of an operational facility, property tax revenue generated from operating big box store is significantly diminished with this valuation method. Owners of this type of commercial real estate have achieved varying degrees of success litigating this matter in court, often by arguing the valuation method conflicts with statutory law. In October 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court refused Rite Aid Corp.’s petition for certiorari challenging property valuations of two N.Y. retail locations; the towns valued the locations based on the drugstore leases rather than using a dark store method.24 In May 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a ruling by a tax tribunal held in favor of retailer Menard. The court held that the tax tribunal had “made an error of law and its decision was not supported by competent, material and substantial evidence” in allowing the dark store valuation method to apply.25

The state of Michigan is considered to be a “founding father” of dark store cases. Since 2013, Mich. counties have refunded approximately $78 million in property taxes related to dark store valuations. In Oakland County, Mich., a Target store once valued at $80 per square foot had its assessed value reduced to $30 after the county lost the assessment appeal. In Midland County, Mich., another Target’s assessed value was slashed from $66 per square foot to just $30 as well. Although various pieces of legislation have been introduced, none yet appear viable. Counties often lack the human resources needed to challenge these valuations in court, even if financially possible. For instance, until October of 2016, Ala. state law required the local district attorney to handle all ad valorem tax cases within their respective district. Recently passed state legislation permits county boards to retain outside counsel in property tax appeals. Funding is derived from the county’s reappraisal budget.26 Counties can also take measures to prevent “dark store” appeals. For example, some counties in Ga. issued ordinances prohibiting deed restrictions and requiring big box stores to demolish the building upon discontinuation of retail use.27 One item on Wisconsin’s county legislative agenda for 2017-2018 in the taxation and finance arena is “Amend property tax assessment to close the ‘dark store’ loophole.” Counties recognize that this loss in property tax revenue results in a higher tax burden for the other property owners in the county, reduced services or both. These are just of the challenges facing counties given technological, behavioral and economic shifts. Marijuana legalization is far from a national norm, and the costs have not been fully assessed. Tax revenues from oil, natural gas and coal production are particularly volatile due to market pricing and also potential regulatory impediments. Integrating the sharing economy into the tax system is still in an incipient form. The “dark store” valuation appeals are on the rise and spreading throughout the country. Counties are alert at rising issues and active in providing solutions.






COUNTIES ARE PURSUING VARIOUS SOLUTIONS TO ENSURE QUALITY SERVICE DELIVERY DESPITE FISCAL CONSTRAINTS. These partial solutions include service delivery sharing, special districts, constitutional changes and alterations of maintenance schedules. Service Delivery Sharing. Counties throughout the country partner with cities, other local governments, other counties, nonprofit organizations and the private sector to deliver high-quality services to their residents in a cost efficient manner. The purpose and design of these partnerships varies; but with decreased state funding and increased requirements for counties, sharing services can play a vital role in delivering services. For example, Iowa counties are part of more than 23,000 agreements with other local governments for service delivery ranging from ambulance services to public libraries. But numerous other examples abound, including the following: • Some N.C. cities and counties share 911 services. Others engage in city/county partnerships for sewer infrastructure upgrades. • Nevada’s Carson City and some neighboring counties have partnered together to create a crosscounty health district. • Kansas’ 105 counties share 27 community mental health centers. • New Jersey’s city of Camden turned to Camden County to fight a crime epidemic. The county took over the city police department, creating a county-wide police force. By leveraging county resources, reduced murder rate by half in two years. • In Neb., some counties co-developed a regional juvenile detention center for counties to hold inmates for other counties. Other Neb. counties created joint public agencies with cities or other governmental entities to develop fairgrounds, arenas or water redevelopment projects. • Some Ky. counties partnered to create regional industrial parks, funded by their coal severance taxes. Others created regional recycling centers in partnership with nonprofit organizations and neighboring counties. In central Ky., 17 counties have a regional recycling center. Moreover, Ky. counties partner to build and maintain county jails. SPECIAL DISTRICTS: Special districts function administratively and fiscally independent from counties, but the county ultimately remains fiscally accountable for the district. Because taxes and fees imposed by special districts are not typically subject to county revenue limitations, they represent one solution to the fiscal impasse; however, these special districts can confuse citizens, are removed from full oversight and may add layers of bureaucracy.

Key Terms Used in this Study SPECIAL DISTRICT: Taxing districts created by county governments or other governing bodies. Special districts function administratively and fiscally independent from county governments, although the county ultimately remains fiscally accountable for the district.





Thirty-seven (37) states grant counties the authority to create and/or manage special districts to fund specific services (See Map 8). In 22 of the 37 states, counties must obtain voter approval to create a special district.


No Authority Over Special Districts Authority Over Special Districts With Voter Approval Authority Over Special Districts Without Voter Appeal

Note: Conn., R.I., and parts of Mass. have counties or county-equivalents with no county governments (marked in grey on the map). Source: NACo interviews with state associations of counties and state and county officials in each of the 48 states with county governments, research of state statutes, tax codes and local government finance literature.

Most commonly, special-purpose districts levy a separate property tax from the county to fund specific services, which can be as narrow or as broad as state statutes allow. For instance, S.C. counties may create special districts for libraries, water treatment, hospital and medical care, elections and economic development. Texas special districts complement county services. For example, Texas counties provide indigent health care in areas without a hospital district. Of special note, more than 1,000 special districts in Idaho created through referenda finance highways, firefighting, ambulance services, sewer and libraries. CONSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS: Alabama counties have largely avoided unfunded mandates because a 1998 amendment to the Ala. Constitution requires a two thirds approval of any such mandate by the state legislature; furthermore, the state cannot enforce the mandate until the next fiscal year. These varied solutions are enabling counties to enhance service delivery in a cost effective manner. Shared service provisions foster an enduring lean efficiency by eliminating government redundancy. Legislative and constitutional actions are also bold options to deter the allure of state unfunded mandates on counties. Lastly, special districts are a widely available mechanism for funding specific services beyond the state imposed revenue limits. Counties are using a combination of these tools to mitigate fiscal pressures.





Conclusion Counties face a daunting problem. In most states, restrictions and limitations on revenue sources inhibit the responsiveness of counties to the demands of local residents. Further complicating the financial health of counties is the growing volume of unfunded state mandates ranging from process guidelines to hefty demands on service provisions. In some cases, the state seemingly demands the impossible: fulfillment of the mandates while prohibiting counties from even developing revenue streams to pay for these mandates on their own. Adding further complexity to these pressures are the oft-incongruent demands of the electorate; the clamor for more expansive services occurs simultaneously with an insistence for a lightened tax burden.

Prudence of a mandate cannot be inferred solely by the constitutionality of that mandate.


Counties face a daunting problem. In most states, restrictions and limitations on revenue sources inhibit the responsiveness of counties to the demands of local residents.

Both the state and federal governments must be more cognizant of the financial pressures created by unfunded mandates. Prudence of a mandate cannot be inferred solely by the constitutionality of that mandate. Counties need the state and the federal governments to provide full funding to cover the compliance costs of the mandates they impose. Likewise, increased county autonomy regarding revenue generation and service provisions would relieve some of the fiscal pressures. Continued partnership with state and federal governments is essential to counties’ ability to effectively and successfully support thriving communities across the country.


End Notes 1

National Association of Counties, “Why Counties Matter,” available at http://www.naco.org/sites/default/files/documents/CountiesMatter_brochure.pdf.

Emilia Istrate and Daniel Handy, “The State of County Finances: Progress Through Adversity,” NACo Trends Analysis Paper Series, Issue 6, October 2016, available at http://www.naco.org/sites/default/files/documents/2016%20County%20Finance%20Report_10.07.16.pdf. 2


Based on an analysis of the 2013 audited county financial statements of 2,112 counties in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Emilia Istrate and Daniel Handy, “The State of County Finances: Progress Through Adversity,” NACo Trends Analysis Paper Series, Issue 6, October 2016, available at http://www.naco.org/sites/default/files/documents/2016%20County%20Finance%20Report_10.07.16.pdf. 4


See state profiles for state level data on property tax disbursements and state specific sources.


Figures derived by calculations based on NACo interviews with state associations. Number reflect values from differing fiscal years, dependent on state.



Emilia Istrate and Daniel Handy, “The State of County Finances: Progress Through Adversity,” NACo Trends Analysis Paper Series, Issue 6, October 2016, http://www.naco. org/sites/default/files/documents/2016%20County%20Finance%20Report_10.07.16.pdf. 8

9 Vermont counties have no independent authority to levy property taxes. Instead, the state of Vt. and its towns collect all local taxes, disbursing a portion of this revenue to counties.

New Hampshire counties do not have the authority to levy any taxes on their own. Instead, municipalities levy and collect all taxes. The county convention determines what proportion of municipal tax revenues the towns must pay the county, and counties issue warrants annually to the towns within county borders to provide these funds.

10 .


Wyoming County Commissioners Association, interview response, March 2016.


Alaska Taxable 2015 https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/dcra/dcrarepoext/Pages/AlaskaTaxableDatabase.aspx


Kansas will be the 30th state after implementation of a levy limit effective January 1, 2017.


Association of Arkansas Counties, interview response, March 2016.


State of Minnesota, Department of Revenue, available at http://www.revenue.state.mn.us/propertytax/factsheets/factsheet_12a.pdf.


New York Association of Counties, interview response, April 2016.


Emilia Istrate and Daniel Handy, “The State of County Finances: Progress Through Adversity,” NACo Trends Analysis Paper Series, Issue 6, October 2016.

New Hampshire counties do not have the authority to levy any taxes on their own. Instead, municipalities levy and collect all taxes. The county convention determines what proportion of municipal tax revenues the towns must pay the county, and counties issue warrants annually to the towns within county borders to provide these funds.



Washington State Association of Counties, interview April 2016.


Colorado Counties, Inc., interview March 2016.


Police Jury Association of Louisiana, interview May 2016.


Alaska Municipal League, interview March 2016.


Kentucky Association of Counties, interview April 2016.


Rite Aid Corp. v. Huseby, U.S., No. 16-36, petition for certiorari denied October 3, 2016.


Menard, Inc. v. City of Escanaba, number 325718, before the State of Michigan Court of Appeals.


Association of County Commissions of Alabama, correspondence with NACo.


Association County Commissioners Georgia, interview March 2016.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The authors want to thank the state associations of counties, state and county officials in each of the 48 states with county governments that provided essential information and comments for the study and the individual state profiles. Without them, this entire project would not have been possible. A special thanks goes to Bill Peterson, Executive Director of the Iowa State Association of Counties, and Doug Hill, Executive Director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, who both provided substantive comments on a draft of the report. Within the National Association of Counties, we are grateful to Mike Belarmino, Matt Chase, David Jackson, and Brian Namey who made thoughtful and insightful contributions along the way. The authors also thank Dan Handy and Ricardo Aguilar for research assistance, Leon Lawrence III and Katy Solomon for graphics design, and Coleman Davis for designing the webpage of the report. FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Research Department National Association of Counties ASSOCIATION of COUNTIES | NOVEMBER 2016 NATIONAL research@naco.org

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Family & Friends

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Continued From Page 22

please remember that email is not the place to carry out or respond to a personal attack. If you need to get someone’s attention, opt for making the text bold, but use it sparingly. Oh, and let’s not forget dreaded text message abbreviations like “u” or “ur” instead of “you” or “your.” I don’t even allow myself to use these in a text let alone an email. Keep paragraphs short. Email is not read in the same way as a print letter, newspaper or novel; it is quickly scanned rather than read in-depth. Make each paragraph just a couple of lines long so the recipient can easily scan the email to get your message. Occasionally, email will need to be more complex. Maybe you have three very important points you need to get across. If that’s the case, separate each idea into a distinct paragraph, then number them 1, 2 and 3. You can also announce in the beginning, “Please see the following three points…” If you don’t do this and instead blend the three ideas into one long blurb, the recipient may quit reading before the end and only respond to one of your points.

Commandment 9

“Thou shalt remember that it is written in stone.”

The problem with writing as opposed to communicating verbally, is that once it’s sent electronically you can’t take it back. How many times have you hit “Send” and said, “Why


did I do that?” Plus, writing allows the content to be reviewed and analyzed over and over again, as opposed to a statement in a conversation. And don’t write anything you don’t want someone else seeing. The potential is there for your message to be shared, either purposefully or accidentally. These commandments are not of biblical proportion — there are not even 10 of them. But they do provide some good guidance for electronic communication. If you want to be a good communicator, it’s best to communicate with people in the medium they prefer — and through more than one. Also, remember communication is a two-way street. It’s important to make sure you are understood by your intended audience. I can’t guarantee you’ll become a master communicator if you follow these electronic communications commandments, but your correspondence will be more appreciated by your coworkers, legislators, family and friends. Studies have found that most of us think we are communicating more effectively via email and text than we actually are. Which means we need to adhere to some or all of these commandments to effectively communicate so we won’t be saying, “I know that you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize what you heard is not what I meant.”

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Articles inside

NACo special report: Doing More with Less article cover image

NACo special report: Doing More with Less

pages 52-76
AAC staff profiles: Holland Doran and Awni Filat article cover image

AAC staff profiles: Holland Doran and Awni Filat

page 51
Circuit clerks visit Capitol article cover image

Circuit clerks visit Capitol

page 50
Little River County celebrates 150 years article cover image

Little River County celebrates 150 years

pages 48-49
Collectors meet at DeGray Lake Resort article cover image

Collectors meet at DeGray Lake Resort

page 46
Coroners hold Aquatic Death course article cover image

Coroners hold Aquatic Death course

page 47
Quorum Court body holds Saturday meeting article cover image

Quorum Court body holds Saturday meeting

page 45
AAC hosts annual safety conference article cover image

AAC hosts annual safety conference

page 44
County officials meet for legislative recap article cover image

County officials meet for legislative recap

pages 30-31
Preserving History article cover image

Preserving History

pages 32-35
49th Annual AAC Conference registration information article cover image

49th Annual AAC Conference registration information

pages 26-29
Savings Times 2 article cover image

Savings Times 2

page 25
Seems to Me article cover image

Seems to Me

pages 21-22
County Law Update article cover image

County Law Update

pages 23-24
Research Corner article cover image

Research Corner

pages 14-17
Legal Corner article cover image

Legal Corner

pages 19-20
Attorney General Opinions article cover image

Attorney General Opinions

pages 12-13
Governmental Affairs article cover image

Governmental Affairs

page 18
From the Director’s Desk article cover image

From the Director’s Desk

pages 7-8