The Boone County Quorum Court made fast work of a short agenda Tuesday night, Feb. 11, at its regular monthly meeting.
The only items on the agenda were a clean-up ordinance reconciling the 2019 general operating budget and a resolution concerning the assessment of real estate taxes on agricultural operations in the county sponsored by Justice of the Peace Jim Milum.
Both the clean-up ordinance and the resolution centering on poultry houses and equipment were thoroughly discussed during committee meetings last week.
The lengthy financial document contains 11 sections mostly pertaining to transfers of money into the proper fund categories with no new funds appropriated.
One appropriation was made that had not been formally appropriated into the budget. It was $13,865.05 representing a payment from Lead Hill for a School Resource Officer which was added in September through December 2019.
Milum prior to the start of last Tuesday night's committee meetings called attention to the intent of the Assessment Coordination Division to update poultry house appraisals throughout the state. Milum informed the quorum court members that the state guidelines raise the square-foot valuation from $4.50 to $9 on broiler houses used to raise chickens for human consumption. No reason has been given for doubling the valuation.
The Assessment Coordination Division issued the new guidelines to county assessors in mid-2018. About half of Arkansas' counties have gone through reappraisals since then. It was noted some poultry farms in Boone County have been appraised under the new policy.
The Assessment Coordination Division is a state agency and the director (Bear Chaney) is hired by the governor. It seems like the director is going to stone wall this, Milum said. The director has continued moving forward even after the Legislative Council passed a resolution last year urging the Assessment Coordination Division to amend the chicken house guidelines it issued in 2018. It also asks the Joint Performance Review Committee to study how poultry houses should be assessed and recommend legislation on poultry house valuation.
Milum said he and JP Fred Woehl thought quorum courts of each county could do something to help. The simple resolution was drafted for the quorum court to consider.
It is titled "A Resolution Concerning Assessment of Real Estate Taxes on Poultry Buildings and Equipment." It points out poultry houses are a major part of the income to Boone County families and the increase in property tax will do financial harm to the poultry industry. It continues to state that the governor and state legislators should require the Assessment Coordination Division to follow administrative procedure laws and regulations required of state agencies. It also supports the Legislative Council's resolution passed last December. Milum said if the quorum court passes it and the county judge signs it, it would be forwarded to the governor. All counties would be encouraged to pass similar resolutions.
Justice of the Peace James Widner, who has a poultry operation in the county, said his houses and equipment were recently reappraised and he checked on the new values since last week's meeting. He said some older houses were reassessed at lower values while some values for newer houses and equipment were increased. Overall, he said, he was pleased to find out that his taxes had actually been slightly reduced. He did agree, however, that the Assessment Coordination Division should follow required administrative procedures and supports the resolution.