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— A balanced budget plan for 2013 was presented to Benton County’s justices of the peace Thursday night, but the proposal cut about $1 million in capital requests and left no money for raises.

At A Glance

County Budget

Benton County’s justices of the peace are working on the county’s 2013 budget. The initial budget proposal includes no raises for county employees or elected officials. According to information from County Comptroller Sarah Daniels, the county’s initial budget projection shows revenue at $40,541,935 in 2013, down from $41,234,853 expected in 2012.

Source: Staff Report

The Finance Committee of the Benton County Quorum Court, meeting as the Budget Committee, reviewed personnel and capital requests from elected officials and department heads Thursday as part of the ongoing budget process. Sarah Daniels, county comptroller, then presented the justices of the peace with a list detailing cuts already made, which lowered the county’s projected deficit from $4.5 million to $1,023,296. Daniels then listed separately another round of cuts that would leave the county with $727 in projected revenue than anticipated expenditures.

“We have some big items on there that will raise some eyebrows,” said Tom Allen, justice of the peace, after Daniels’ list was introduced for discussion.

Daniels told the justices of the peace there were two entries on the lists of projected cuts they might consider paying for from the county’s reserve funds. The County Road Department has identified $940,000 in potential cuts that would reduce equipment purchases in 2013 and also reduce the paving work planned for next year from 61 miles down to about 50 miles. The second big ticket items in the list of newly identified cuts is a proposal for the county to buy two fire trucks for the rural fire service. The county has been buying a pair of trucks for the rural fire department annually to help with the replacement of aging equipment.

“I personally have no problem with that,” Allen said of paying for the two items from reserves for 2013. “This is one time, for one year. Let’s get these with capital reserves this year. Once we get this budget set the way we need, zeroed out, it should be easier going forward.”

Kurt Moore, justice of the peace, said he wanted to continue the practice buying trucks for the rural fire department. He suggested an alternative to buying a pair of trucks from reserves.

“We could do a multi-truck purchase,” Moore said. “Buy 10 trucks now, then not spend that money for the next five years.”

“Something about that scares me,” Allen said.

Moore said treating the purchase of 10 fire trucks like other large capital projects would avoid it being an annual expense and could reduce the cost to the county in the bargain. Marc Trollinger, county fire marshal, said the county has gotten a price reduction in the past when buying more than one or two trucks.

Allen pointed out that 10 trucks, if they cost $250,000 each, would take $2.5 million out of the county’s reserve. Moore said the county would be spending that same amount of money on fire trucks if the Quorum Court approved an annual purchase of two trucks as it has in recent years.

“It’s one of those things where you can spend it now or spend it later,” Moore said.

Trollinger and Marshal Watson, county public safety administrator, both noted while buying a large number of trucks at one time would provide a benefit to the rural fire service it could also pose problems later if the county defers its annual replacement program.

“We could wind up in a similar situation when we get down the road in five years and we’re going to need a tremendous number of trucks,” Watson said.

“It’s going to take some convincing for me to buy a huge number of trucks like that at one time,” Allen said.

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