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Baxter County’s Judge Kevin Litty has found his stride, running a smooth Quorum Court session that cleaned up the county’s budget for this year.
This month’s court agenda placed a heavy emphasis on appropriating funds to various budgets, while also appointing several people to various boards. The court also received a presentation from Kim Crow-Sheaner and the Baxter County Library.
That presentation covered many of the library’s achievements throughout 2022, including the change to the library’s operating hours, the increase of visitors and volunteers to the library, its special programs including its Diamond Exhibit, and the library’s push to help elementary school children read more.
According to Crow-Sheaner, the library’s Baxter County Early Literacy Project is focused on making positive changes to children’s future with a focus on helping them achieve greater things later in life.
During her presentation, Crow-Sheaner revealed Baxter County students scores on the ACT Aspire test. The test, which is given to third graders, revealed that only 38% of third graders in Mountain Home scored proficient in reading. That score dropped lower in Norfork, whose students scored 33% for reading proficiency. Student reading proficiency in Cotter came in at 43%.
Altogether, Baxter County students beat the state average of 35% for reading proficiency in third grade students.
“Third grade is a really big indicator,” Crow-Sheaner said. “How well you’re reading in the third grade indicates how well you will do the rest of your school career and whether you will actually stay in school. Some have even linked it to future incarceration rates.”
The Baxter County Early Literacy Project is a collaboration between the Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, Cotter, and Norfork School Districts, Schliemann Center for Women’s Health Education, ASUMH, and other early literacy advocates.
The project focuses on getting books into children’s hands, promoting the importance of early literacy, instilling the practice of reading aloud within the family unit, and increasing awareness of early learning standards.
The library achieves this through several programs such as the Little Free Library program, which allows children and parents to pick up a free book from several bright yellow library boxes in eight locations throughout Baxter County.
The library also hosts the Dolly Parton Imagination Library which is a book gifting program that gives children one free book a month until their 5th birthday. The program costs $26 per child, but costs are covered through generous donations and state assistance.
Another early literacy program promoted by the Baxter County Library is the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program, which focuses on engaging parents to read 1000 books to their children before they enter kindergarten. One book per night over the course of three years, results in 1095 books read.
The first ordinance of the night handled the usual reimbursement of fees to the Baxter County Sherriff’s Office for the month of February. That ordinance appropriated $5,234.48 to the Sheriff’s 2023 budget.
A total of $1,850 of that will come from the county’s general fund to cover basic supplies and fuel for the Sheriff’s Office. A cool $2,675.23 was appropriated from the Sheriff’s Special Projects Fund to cover computer services.
Some $709.25 came from the County Jail Fund for cover medicine, drugs and dental charges.
The next ordinance of the night saw the court appropriate $1,500 from the County General Fund into OEM’s 2023 budget to pay for the costs of renting a repeater tower for emergency purposes.
Following that ordinance, the court moved to appropriate $18,636.36 into the county treasurer’s budget to cover the funding for a permanent part time position. The money will cover that position’s salary, social security, retirement, work compensation and unemployment benefits.
In addition to funding a new part time position, the court transfered funds from the County General Fund into the Public Defender Fun in the amount of $21,985.19. The court also re-appropriated those funds into the Public Defender Budget for 2023.
This money will go towards funding the full-time secretary position that Prosecuting Attorney David Ethridge requested several months ago.
One of the bigger ordinances for the night covered an ordinance of fulfilling a state-mandated budget clean up. The funds for this ordinance were re-appropriated from the county’s 2022 budget.
To start, $532.47 went towards health insurance for Baxter County Judge Kevin Litty, as well as an additional $618.29 in travel reimbursements.
For the Baxter County Election Commission, $782.99 went towards paying for extra help. For the county’s recycling project, $651.97 and $582 went towards extra help.
Human Resources received $1,312.57. The County’s Maintenance Shop received $329.81 and Household Hazardous Waste received $161.54.
The Baxter County Sheriff’s Office received a total of $31,557.91 to cover salaries. The 10th Judicial Circuit Court received $1,505.37 to cover the cost of extra help. Juvenile Services received $20,733.44 to cover salary expenses.
Ethridge’s office received an additional $3,889.72 to cover salary costs as well.
The Sheriff’s Traffic Enforcement Project Grant received some $3,902.94. That money will go to cover salary costs as well. OEM will also take in $680.65 for salaries and the county’s fire departments will receive $672.20.
The county’s 911 telecommunications fund received $1,081.42. That money is entitled to a state match grant. The Baxter County Airport received $889.10.
Animal Control received a hefty amount of appropriated money for the night, receiving $28,516.10 in funding for the evening. The county’s Road and Bridge department received the most funding for the evening, with some $180,543.84 being appropriated in funding. The County Road and Bridge 2003 Motor Fuel Tax budget received $78,236.89.
The county’s Detention Center budget also appropriated $6,389 in funding. The county’s 911 Department saw $27,698.29 appropriated. Finally, the County Jail budget received $98,547.80.
The night wrapped up with the appointment of Martin Oreschnigg to the Baxter County Planning Board, Tom Frase to the Cotter/Gassville Rural Fire Protection District Board and Jack Coy to the Buford Volunteer Fire Department Board of Commissioners.