HomePine Bluff newsJefferson County officials agree on tax plan to avoid shutdown

Jefferson County officials agree on tax plan to avoid shutdown

Pine Bluff, Arkansas – Wednesday night brought relief to Jefferson County as Quorum Court officials unanimously passed a tax levy for 2024, steering clear of a potential government shutdown. This decision was critical to ensuring the county’s financial stability and operational continuity.

The approval of the tax levy didn’t come without its challenges. A significant factor delaying the vote was the disagreement between County Judge Gerald Robinson and some members of the court. Robinson emphasized the high stakes of the situation, stating, “By statute, there’s no way that you can go back and collect taxes if we didn’t do this by December 31.” The failure to pass the tax levy would have resulted in a loss of over $60 million for the county.

In the Quorum Court’s November meeting, the tax levy was initially passed. However, Robinson vetoed this decision due to the absence of the majority of the court members at that meeting. Justice of the Peace for District 5, Lloyd Franklin II, mentioned that the court members overturned the judge’s veto in the December 11 meeting. Yet Robinson countered that the vote didn’t achieve the necessary two-thirds majority, leading to the continuation of the ordinance at the December 20 meeting.

Robinson explained his veto, saying, “I vetoed that under an abundance of caution to make sure that legislation that’s brought forth passes in a proper way.” He also mentioned filing a lawsuit against the quorum court earlier this year, which included issues about procedural rules.

Despite their differences, Franklin highlighted the court’s focus on the county’s welfare, saying, “Even though we are at odds and we may have different views, the quorum court has been passing legislation this year, and we’ve continued on with the county’s business.”

Franklin voiced concerns about the December 20 meeting being a tactic by the county judge to push for other measures he wanted the court to pass. He expressed frustration over the dynamics between the county judge and the quorum court, saying, “I’ve never seen a county judge play chicken with the fate of the county.”

Robinson, addressing the ongoing tension, expressed his hope for the public to regain confidence in their elected officials, though he acknowledged the challenges of achieving unity.

With the tax levy issue resolved, Robinson indicated that the county’s immediate focus would be on passing their 2024 budget to remain operational.

Jennifer Barbaree, Superintendent of Pine Bluff School District, commented on the court’s decision, emphasizing the routine nature of such ordinances and expressing surprise at the level of contention it had caused. She noted that school districts rely on tax funding, underscoring the importance of such decisions for educational institutions.

Nathan Kim



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