All discussions of Faulkner County’s operations must begin with a clear understanding of what the county does, i.e., what services it offers.
County governments are the creatures of the state Legislature. In the middle-ages, England created the role of the sheriff (the sheriff of Nottingham). English settlers brought to America the concept of a sheriff acting as the principal law enforcement agent for the community. Soon thereafter, American settlements decided that certain activities were the proper function of governmental units and not the private sector. As the American body politic evolved, the role and function of county government entities evolved.
Today, the elected officials in Faulkner County are the county clerk, circuit clerk, treasurer, assessor, collector, sheriff and county judge. Statutes also define the role of the judges and courts. State statutes clearly define the duties and responsibilities of each. There is no overlap.
Each elected official is the department head. The official has staff and equipment to facilitate performing their defined duties and responsibilities.
Some observers attempt to compare county government financial operations to the private sector. The private sector follows accounting practices approved by the Security and Exchange Commission and state accounting groups. County government keeps its books following practices approved by the state’s Legislative Audit.
The private sector maintains a balance sheet and an income statement. The balance sheet shows the assets, liabilities and capital accounts. The income statement shows the revenues and expenses where the difference between the two is a profit or loss.
County government’s accounts are organized as “fund” accounting. Fund accounting may be summarized as “there is a fund for this and a fund for that.” Presently, the county treasurer maintains accounts for 61 different funds. Some of these are county general, county roads, county library, child support, drug court, emergency squad, animal welfare, soil conservation and many others.
The treasurer maintains all the accounts. Each fund has its revenue sources. The treasurer records each fund’s revenues received and expenses charged, but there is no profit and loss associated with any fund.
The county’s accounting system does not have an income statement. So attempts to transfer profit-maximizing decision making to the county’s decision making is misplaced and unfounded.
If the county’s objective is not to maximize profits, then what do the county departments attempt to maximize? They are responsible to provide the services defined in the statutes, subject only to the funds available.
The county only provides services to its citizens. In contrast, some private sector firms offer goods (merchandise) for sale, others offer only services, and others offer both. All readers are familiar with goods. The list is long and includes automobiles, hats, packages of Oreos, shotgun shells, hiking shoes, electric bikes, etc. Goods are physical objects, i.e., items of merchandise. What distinguishes goods from services is that the purchaser of an automobile, an electric bike or any other good can transfer it to another person.
Not so for services. When a person purchases a haircut, painted nails, dental or medical treatments, and all other services, they are consumed by the purchaser and cannot be transferred to another person. Faulkner County does not sell goods. It only offers services such as police protection, marriage licenses, courts, books and programs at the library, 911 services, public defender, voter registration, election services, etc.
Some may assert that the county builds bridges and that these are a type of a good. It is not the bridge that residents value. Rather, it is the safe and convenient transportation service provided by the bridge (across the Cadron) that the residents value. The service provided by the bridge is the source of the value to residents.
The Faulkner County delivers only services provided by the different departments to the citizens.
Pickett is the Justice of the Peace representing District 11. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.