The state Department of Finance and Administration plans to split up the duties of its retiring deputy director among three administrators and grant them pay raises for their new duties, department officials told a legislative panel on Wednesday.
Sen. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, said it doesn't surprise him that it takes three employees to replace Tim Leathers, the departing deputy director.
Leathers, who has worked for the department for 39 years, is retiring from state government at the end of this month to join the inVeritas public affairs firm as vice president of consulting, starting Jan. 1.
In other action, the legislative panel signed off on an Arkansas Development Finance Authority plan to create a deputy director position with a maximum-authorized salary of $106,919 a year and hire an economist for the post to develop a Division of Economic Policy within the department.
Aaron Burkes, president of the finance authority, said he doesn't believe that the new position will duplicate the work of the Finance and Administration Department's chief economic forecaster, John Shelnutt, and economists at the state's universities.
The Legislative Council's Personnel Subcommittee learned that the finance department plans to divide the duties of Leathers, who is deputy director of management services and the state's revenue commissioner.
The department has about 2,900 employees and operational expenditures of about $255 million a year, according to department spokesman Jake Bleed.
Department Director Larry Walther told lawmakers that he's trying to realign and redistribute Leather's responsibilities evenly among three administrators because Leathers "was sort of a super deputy [director]." Leathers makes $139,919 a year.
Walter Anger, the finance department's assistant revenue commissioner of operations and administration, will become a deputy director and revenue commissioner. The finance department wants to increase his salary from $114,835 to $125,081 a year, Walther said in a letter to the subcommittee.
Carla Haugen, administrator of Administrative Services, will become a deputy director and chief of staff, and the department wants to increase her salary from $107,807 to $125,081 a year, Walther said.
Paul Louthian, accounting administrator, will become a deputy director and comptroller for the state. The department wants to increase his salary from $114,961 to $125,081, Walther said.
"I expect when the dust clears there will be a net savings [through this reorganization]," Walther said.
Sen. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs, said he learned from Walther recently that former assistant revenue commissioner John Theis is returning to work at the department.
"I thought that he was coming back as a replacement for Tim," Sample said.
But Walther said Theis "ran the tax administration and [when] left six months ago he didn't really want to return in that capacity."
He said Theis will be an adviser in a lower-level attorney position. His salary hasn't been determined.
The new deputy director position at the Development Finance Authority is needed to create the Division of Economic Policy to conduct econometric and statistical analysis to support innovative initiatives throughout state government, said the state's personnel administrator, Kay Barnhill.
Asked by Sen. Uvalde Lindsey, D-Fayetteville, to justify the new deputy director post, Burkes said the authority issues a lot of the state's debt and Gov. Asa Hutchinson and lawmakers want to improve the state's bond rating and conduct analysis of proposed super projects under Amendment 82.
"We are involved in a lot of really high-level analysis of projects and we feel like this position would be something that would help a lot in that. A single deal could make a difference of literally millions of dollars for us and what we are looking at trying to do with this position is to hire a Ph.D. economist," Burkes said.
Lindsey questioned whether the new deputy director post would duplicate work by Shelnutt and economic analysis units at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
Burkes said most of Shelnutt's duties are more focused on tax revenue projections and the Division of Economy Policy would cooperate with those units at the universities.
He said the Division of Economic Policy could help analyze ideas coming out of the Legislature or the governor's office.
"This division could provide the quantitative analysis and analytical tools to be able to help inform a decision on your part ... ," he said.
Burkes said the division also would use an existing employee with an economics degree at the Development Finance Authority and possibly use another position at the authority if that's required.
Metro on 12/15/2016