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CONWAY -- Without any disagreement or layoffs and in an unusually brief meeting, the Faulkner County Quorum Court approved county department budgets for 2018.

Despite earlier concerns, no offices had to lay off employees to meet the Quorum Court's demands for slashed budgets.

Justices of the peace approved a total 2018 budget of $40,336,008.65 and a general fund budget of $12,894,621.11, County Clerk Margaret Darter said Wednesday.

The panel's meeting Tuesday night lasted less than an hour and lacked the sometimes contentious discussion that had marked Finance Committee meetings in the days preceding the full Quorum Court's session Tuesday night.

Among the offices forced to reduce planned spending was the sheriff's office, which cut $120,000, Sheriff Tim Ryals said Wednesday. Ryals said in a text message that this was done "with the stipulation of returning [$50,000] in January with turnback funds."

Ryals said he also plans to ask for eight new positions after the county knows how much money it will carry over from 2017.

"That is what I feel I need to operate at a very minimum," he said.

Those positions include three patrol deputies, two dispatchers, two detention officers and a medical assistant, Ryals said.

Much of the previous budget dispute surrounded the general fund budget for the county's juvenile court, presided over by Circuit Judge Troy Braswell.

Braswell had been before the committee twice, both times declining to cut his spending proposal as requested. Doing so would have required him to lay off two essential employees, he said. Ultimately Braswell triumphed when the committee and later the Quorum Court agreed to shift some money from another area until JPs see how much money the county will carry over from 2017.

"My staff and I are extremely grateful to the Quorum Court for understanding the importance of a fully funded juvenile court," Braswell said in a statement Wednesday.

"We look forward to serving our community by helping court-involved youth see their full potential," he added.

The budget contention started after a special Quorum Court meeting was called to consider a 3 percent cost-of-living salary increase for county employees in 2018.

All members present at the special meeting voted to amend the originally proposed salary increase resolution, eliminating any mention of raises and instead agreeing to set aside $1.28 million toward an undefined "future use to be determined by the quorum court."

The move stunned some county employees, and the Quorum Court, at the Finance Committee's recommendation, ended up on Tuesday night reducing the planned savings to $1 million. Darter said justices of the peace agreed to revisit that issue in February.

Darter said there was no discussion Tuesday night of cost-of-living raises.

State Desk on 12/21/2017

Print Headline: $40.3M budget approved by JPs avoids staff cuts

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