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BENTONVILLE -- Benton County's Finance Committee on Tuesday endorsed the 2018 budget.

The justices of the peace voted to send the budget to the Committee of the Whole on Dec. 12 and the Quorum Court will consider the budget when it meets Dec. 21.

Brenda Guenther, comptroller, gave the committee a briefing on the budget process, showing the work done through October and November. The justices of the peace began with a $4.4 million surplus and concluded with about $518,000 remaining after approving raises for employees and elected officials; new personnel and some departmental reorganizations; capital requests; and the cost of opening new office space in Rogers. The 2018 budget for the general and road funds is about $52.8 million.

The county plans to move the Election Commission and some County Clerk and Assessor offices to the new space in Rogers. Circuit Judge Doug Schrantz' courtroom and offices will be moved to a county building at 221 S. Main St. and some other county offices will be moved to new space. The county also plans to sell the building at 905 N.W. Eighth St. that now houses the planning and environmental offices.

Guenther also told the justices of the peace the county has received the report on its 2016 audit by the state Legislative Audit. In the 2015 report, the state found a former employee, Connie Guild, had stolen more than $1 million over a period of several years. Guild, 52, of Gravette was a senior accounting specialist until she was fired in September 2016 and was the custodian of the travel fund.

Guild waived indictment, was arraigned and pleaded guilty in April to theft concerning programs that receive federal money and filing a false federal income tax return. Guild agreed to repay or forfeit assets amounting to $1,033,762 as part of her plea agreement.

U.S. District Judge Tim Brooks in September sentenced Guild to 34 months in prison on each charge, to run concurrently. That will be followed by three years of supervised release on the theft charge and one year of supervised release on the tax charge. She was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment per charge but no fine. Brooks also ordered Guild to pay the county restitution and $279,726 to the IRS.

Guenther said the 2016 audit was "clean and clear."

"This year, there were no findings," Guenther said.

Joel Jones, justice of the peace for District 7, commended Guenther, County Judge Barry Moehring and the accounting staff for the work they have done to correct the problems that allowed Guild to steal from the county.

"This is the first year since I've been on the Quorum Court there wasn't some finding," Jones said.

NW News on 12/06/2017

Print Headline: County panel OKs 2018 budget

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