The Pulaski County Quorum Court has approved a 2022 budget that includes pay raises and funding for data storage of body camera equipment worn by county law enforcement officers.
There was no discussion among court members before unanimously approving the measure during Tuesday night's meeting. The $86 million budget was recommended via a budget committee, which approved the final version last week.
"I think our budgeting process has been pretty smooth this year," Pulaski County's County Judge Barry Hyde said Wednesday. "There is a substantial increase in the sheriff's budget. That's pretty standard with these cameras. We are just catching up with what it takes to operate all these cameras."
The Pulaski County sheriff's office budget increased by about $900,000 to cover the cost of data storage.
Pulaski County Comptroller Michael "Hutch" Hutchens previously said body cameras are often paid for through grants but data storage is something government bodies have to pay for.
The lack of data storage has been cited by the Lonoke County sheriff's office as the reason its deputies don't have cameras rolling at all times. The issue was raised after the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain in June.
Former Lonoke County sheriff's office deputy Michael Davis was fired in the days after the shooting because he violated policy when his camera wasn't turned on before his engagement with Brittain, according to the sheriff's office.
Pulaski County's 2022 budget is projected to be about $4 million more than the proposed $82 million in revenue from 2021.
The county's budget comes from sales taxes, court fines and property taxes, Hutchens said. Revenue has increased with the rise of property values, he said.
Covid-19 stimulus money also has helped ease expenditures in 2021, he said, but that funding is reserved for certain expenses, such as cleaning and protective equipment.
The county likely will receive more revenue than it will spend in 2022, Hutchens said, though the budget is a projection.
The extra funds help cover the projected $2 million in pay raises approved in the budget. Employees will receive up to a 4% raise, according to Hutchens.
"I think that's important, especially with what's happening in the employment market," Hyde said Wednesday. "I think there will be a lot of salary inflation in the market next year."
The raises are based on a 2017 market study completed by the Johanson Group. The group created a market comparison to other government groups, nonprofits and private companies that compete with the county for employees. It then set a new pay scale that it said the county needed to reach to be competitive in the market.
Hutchens said the budget amendment will bring county employees from 92% to 96% of the market pay scale created by the group.
The pay increases will vary depending on where an employee's salary is at. It is possible some employees, already at or above the 96% line, will not receive any raise, Hutchens said.
County employees received a 2% raise in April. The raise was delayed as the county monitored the economy during the pandemic, Hyde said.
Hyde said the county will continue preserving its state-required reserve funds, which are in excess of 10% of the budget. The funds are set aside for emergency purposes.