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BENTONVILLE -- Benton County's justices of the peace on Thursday unanimously approved the 2018 budget.

Tom Allen, justice of the peace for District 4 and chairman of the Finance/Budget Committee, lauded the work on the budget.

Youth shelter

The Benton County Quorum Court approved spending an additional $128,000 on a project to convert part of the juvenile detention facility into a youth shelter. The county is working with the Endeavor Foundation to convert a portion of the detention facility into a shelter with room for eight beds.

Source: Staff report

"It's a good budget," Allen said. "We've got a little cushion to get us through the year."

The 2018 budget for the general and road funds is about $52.8 million. The county will have about $13.3 million in available reserve. The county will have about $518,000 in projected revenue remaining after approving raises for employees and elected officials; new personnel and some departmental reorganizations; capital requests; and the cost of opening a new office at 2115 W. Walnut St. in Rogers.

The county is leasing about 20,000 square feet in the building, with a right of first refusal on an adjoining 17,000 square feet. Benton County property records show the entire building has 114,656 square feet. Some of the former Kmart building is already leased. The Samaritan Shop moved into 24,000 square feet in April.

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 in Bentonville 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 in Bentonville. housing the planning and environmental offices. Those offices will be moved into some of the space vacated by the Election Commission in the county building at 1204 SW 14th St. in Bentonville.

The justices of the peace also agreed to use turnback money, money budgeted for 2017 but not spent, to cover expected costs in the health insurance program. Joel Jones, justice of the peace for district 7, said the county expects about $1.5 million in turnback. The committee approved transferring up to $500,000 into the health fund. The money will be transferred once all of the 2017 expenditures have been finalized. The justices of the peace also approved moving $275,000 into the health fund immediately.

The Quorum Court also accepted the 2016 audit from the state Legislative Audit. Jones said the audit was clean, with no findings by the auditors.

"That's a first in the time I've been on the Quorum Court," Jones said.

In the 2015 report, the state found a former employee, Connie Guild, had stolen more than $1 million over 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 pleaded guilty in April to theft concerning programs that receive federal money and filing a false federal income tax return. She agreed to repay or forfeit assets amounting to $1,033,762 as part of her plea agreement. Guild was sentenced 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.

The justice of the peace also approved spending an additional $128,000 on a project to convert part of the juvenile detention facility into a youth shelter with room for eight beds.

NW News on 12/22/2017

Print Headline: County approves 2018 budget

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