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The Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday voted to add funding for 30 probation and parole officers to the state Department of Community Correction's proposed appropriation for the coming fiscal year, over the objections of the state's budget director.

Without any debate among lawmakers, the committee voted to accept its Personnel Subcommittee's recommendation to add an amendment proposed by Sen. Will Bond, D-Little Rock, to House Bill 1082.

Under Bond's amendment, the department's probation and parole officer positions would be increased to 529 and the total positions would be increased by 30 to 1,485 in fiscal 2019, which starts July 1. The department's total spending authority for operations would be increased from $89.4 million to $90.9 million for that fiscal year.

Budget Director Duncan Baird told lawmakers the department has more than 100 vacant positions, and 27 of those are for probation and parole officers.

"We have added around 65 parole and probation officers over the last couple of years, so for that reason we were opposed to that amendment in the Personnel Subcommittee," Baird said.

Afterward, Bond said, "There is some natural turnover [and] the agency predicts about 6 percent, but we need these positions based on the studies that we have to get caseloads down."

-- Michael R. Wickline

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