BENTONVILLE -- The Benton County Quorum Court on Thursday unanimously approved the 2022 budget.
Next year's general fund budget is projected at $51.5 million with a surplus of just over $154,000.
Included in the budget is a 6% raise for county employees -- 4% merit and a 2% cost of living allowance.
Justice of the Peace Tom Allen said much was accomplished as the budget was put together. The Quorum Court voted 13-0 to approve the budget.
"We will fund all needed capital expenditures that we need to help our citizens for many things such as maintaining roads, keeping the jail operations well equipped, more fire trucks for our volunteer fire departments, help for our prosecuting attorney's office, and we made significant increases in the pay for our county employees this year that will put them at par with their peer groups of competing jobs and organizations' pay structure," Allen said.
An approved market study also will raise the pay of hundreds of county employees. The market study was done by an outside party to determine how the county pay compares by position to that of various other entities, county Comptroller Brenda Peacock said.
The $1.5 million in the market study is the amount it would take to bring an estimated 467 employees that are below market average to the market average, Peacock said.
"There was a lot of debate and disagreement on how to react to that study," Allen said. "But we came together as a Quorum Court along with the other elected officials to find common ground on how to address the compensation of our employees. Once we had agreement on that issue, the rest of the budget fell into place pretty quickly."
Justice of the Peace Ken Farmer said there was productive discussion during budget meetings.
"I expected to have to send department budgets back for cuts more than we had to. The elected officials and department heads were very reasonable in their requests," Farmer said.
Capital requests for 2022 -- most of which were for vehicles, machinery and equipment -- total $5.6 million.
The Road Department's budget is projected at $14.1 million. The Sheriff's Office budget is projected at $14.9 million. The county jail budget for next year is $11.73 million.
The addition of 24 new positions will impact the county general fund by $832,000, according to the county.
"The biggest things accomplished with the budget were getting employees' salaries competitive with others in the area and adding several employees to the workforce," Farmer said. "Benton County is growing rapidly. We have to increase our workforce in order to maintain services to the residents. We have to remember that the vast majority of our services serve residents in the cities too, not just the unincorporated areas."
The justices of the peace also voted 13-0 for a resolution supporting the establishment of an income tax credit for full-time law enforcement officers in the state.
In other action
The Benton County Quorum Court on Thursday also approved appropriating $12,177 from the JAG-Juvenile Assistance/Edward Byrne Memorial Grant, awarded in October, for the purchase of radar equipment for the Sheriff’s Office.
Source: Benton County