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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fulton County Quorum Court gets late budget requests

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A new bridge on Sturkie Road is one of Fulton County government's 2012 success stories. A grant paid for the the large drainage pipes, and the county road department built the bridge. [Order this photo]
After looking over a proposed budget, cutting $161,000 in General Fund spending, formal approval of a 2013 Fulton County budget was on the agenda of the Monday, Dec. 10 meeting of Quorum Court. But two organizations, who provide important services to local residents, asked Justices of the Peace for a "do over" so they could possibly be included in the new budget.

A $25,000 budget savings in the new fiscal year was brought about by the fact White River Area Agency on Aging, which took over the operation of the county's senior citizen centers this summer, had not asked for the funding the long-time provider, Fulton County Council on Aging, had received in the past.

"I want to thank you for having the patience for allowing us to speak to you," Janice Crider told JPs. The director of WRAAA's Senior Life Program explained that White River was not informed the budget process was under way and failed to file a funding request.

"I just want to ask you to continue funding the program -- the senior citizen program you have been faithful to fund in times past. I believe our seniors deserve it," Crider said.

WRAAA took over local senior programs in July, criticizing the Fulton County Aging for not doing enough fund raising to allow local programs to serve more seniors.

According to Crider, White River has raised $6,000 through fundraisers since taking over the program. White River's Senior Citizen Coordinator, Darlene Fowler, told JPs that new management has met the goal of reaching more seniors by doubling the number of people served meals at senior centers in Salem, Viola and Mammoth Spring, and tripling the number of seniors receiving home delivered meals.

While the Fulton County Council on Aging was expected to operate within a budget based on state and federal money provided to the program or raise additional funds to expand services, White River is expanding services without first raising money to cover the cost.

Under questioning, Fowler revealed that the Fulton County program is $75,000 "in the red," under White River's management.

Crider said her small staff is having trouble finding the time to devote to fundraising, but her plan is to seek more community support for senior programs thorough corporate and church sponsorships, a golf tournament and other fundraising activities.

Fowler said, as a last resort, her agency will probably raise the $2 price seniors currently pay for lunch, to $3 per meal. Fowler noted most other senior centers in the ten county area White River oversees have already raised meal prices, because $2 per meal does not come close to covering the actual cost of the meal, and the staff and activities centers sponsor.

White River officials indicated that they do not expect an increase in the $81,000 a year Fulton County receives from state and federal funds for its meal program. Increases in the number of meals served, transporation provided and other programs will have to be made up through fundraising and support from city and county governments.

County Judge Charles Willett suggested that those who serve senior citizens need to be working hard to educate the legislature on the importance of providing more money for senior meals and programs. White River officials indicated there would be an effort to obtain more state funding.

JP Jim Marler, who asked what the local deficit was, questioned how local senior programs will survive without a more definite plan to make up the deficit. "How will you keep operating like this?, Marler asked. "You're like the federal government or what?"

JP Jim Bicker pointed out that Quorum Court could not consider helping fund the senior program without a formal request for assistance.

Crider proposed that White River receive $20,000 in county funds, a 20 percent cut in the $25,000 provided by the county in past years.

Bicker said Quorum Court has always supported senior program because they are important, but he noted the proposed budget reflects major cuts in General Fund spending. "It's strictly an issue that your money's been cut because our money has been cut too."

"I'd like to see us help them (senior centers), but I don't want to put us (the county) in a bind either," JP Michael Barnett said, as JPs discussed whether they could come up with any money to help senior programs.

Barnett later made a motion to add $10,000 to the budget to support Fulton County Senior Life programs, and to look at county funding in June to see if another $10,000 could be added for the second half of the fiscal year.

The motion was unanimously approved.

Safe Passage, an organization which provides domestic violence programs in Fulton and Izard County, also appeared before JPs to ask for funding assistance. Safe Passage Shelter Manager Lora Umphries said her agency served 334 individuals and families from October of 2011 through September of 2012, providing assistance with obtaining Orders of Protection, offering a shelter for women and children, and helping domestic violence victims find jobs, apartments and meet other needs to get re-established on their own.

"Our funding through the federal government has been reduced. In March, we will lose the funding for Fulton County altogether. We'll have to seek out new avenues to service the people of this county," Umphries said.

She noted that Izard County currently offers $6,000 a year in funding, plus a building for a thrift center and office."We're asking this Quorum Court to please try to fund us in some type of a way, shape or form because we are servicing your county," Umphries said.

No JPs asked any questions or made any comments on Safe Passage's need for funding assistance. Judge Willett suggested that members give the request some thought and the request could be discussed at a future meeting.,

After passing a 2013 budget of $1,741,138, Quorum Court approved a number of year end appropriations including $75,000 in grant money to pay for a new bridge being completed on Sturkie Road, and $73,000 in architect fees for the new jail - funds which will be reimbursed when a USDA loan is finalized to finance jail construction.

Judge Willett began the meeting by noting it would be the last meeting for Treasurer Donna Hall, who did not seek re-election, and the final meeting of JPs Jim Bicker and Michael Roork, who did not seek re-election, and David Cunningham, who was defeated in the November election. The judge thanked the outgoing office holders for their service to the county.

New Justices of the Peace Burton Yarnell, Johnny Moody and Mark Guffey will take their seats at the

first meeting of the new year which is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 7.

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