The last topic at the January 3 Hempstead County Quorum Court meeting was a brief statement by County Judge Haskell Morse suggesting the separation of the county tax collectors position from the Sheriff's position.
The last topic at the January 3 Hempstead County Quorum Court meeting was a brief statement by County Judge Haskell Morse suggesting the separation of the county tax collectors position from the Sheriff’s position.
"About 52 counties have separated the positions. This will lighten the sheriff's workload and make the office more efficient," Morse said.
He said in 2011 the county did not collect an estimated $22,000 in personal property $23,000 in 2012; $32,000 in 2013; and $54,000 in 2014. This does not include the money not collected from real estate taxes.
He said there are various reasons the county is unable to collect the total amounts each year, such as people relocating out of county or they do not refile.
Currently, the tax collector’s position is being held by Sheriff James Singleton, who gets 1/3 of his salary from being the tax collector. He said he did not see the benefit of adding another county position.
The Hempstead County Sheriff/Tax Collector’s annual salary for the two positions is $44,800, according to the Association of Arkansas Counties. Using that number, in theory, a one-third salary reduction would put a standalone salary for the Hempstead Sheriff at $30,016.
As a comparison, other salaries for the countywide elected public positions are: Hempstead County Clerk, $39,000; Circuit Clerk, $39,000; County Treasurer, $39,000; and County Assessor, $39,000.
"Adding an additional person in the office, with an additional salary, I don't see how it would benefit. The ladies currently in that office do an outstanding job," Singleton said.
Singleton said if he was shown where it would benefit the taxpayers he would agree with it.
Morse said the funds for this position do not come out of the county budget, but is part of a collector’s automated fund set aside by the state.
"It is a self-efficient office, like most of the offices," Morse said.
Singleton said whatever funds are available are still taxpayers money.
He said the office is in the process of being modernized for credit and debit card usage.
"Hopefully that will be in use this tax season," Singleton said.
Singleton said the office needs to continue to focus on being modernized and more "user friendly.”
Singleton said his main concern is to not to waste taxpayers money and to be "prudent" on how money is spent. He said he is willing to talk with the Quorum Court on what goes on in the tax collector’s office.
Morse said he plans on talking with Singleton to reach an agreement on the future of the position.
Morse said there are two ways to separate the tax collector’s office from the sheriff’s office. He said the Quorum Court could make the decision to put the separation on the ballot during the next election cycle for county residents to vote on.
Morse said it can also be put on the legislative ballot, which he has discussed with new State Representative Danny Watson. He said from there, the governor will appoint someone to serve as tax collector until the next county election.
Editor's Note -- Hope Star editor Rick Kennedy contributed to this report.