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BENTONVILLE -- Benton County officials are starting work on the 2018 budget with a $4.4 million surplus in expected revenue over operating expenses.

The Finance Committee, meeting as the budget committee, was briefed on the financial situation for 2018 by Brenda Guenther, comptroller. Guenther said anticipated revenues for the general fund and the road fund are about $53.4 million.

County budget

Benton County’s budget committee will resume its work on the 2018 budget when the panel meets at 5 p.m. on Oct. 12 in the Quorum Courtroom in the County Administration Building, 215 E. Central Ave.

Source: Benton County

"That's a 3.81 percent increase in revenue this year from last year," Guenther said.

Guenther said the projects revenue gives the justices of the peace with a net surplus of $4.4 million to work with. The operating budgets submitted don't include requests for new personnel, raises for employees or capital equipment request, Guenther said.

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"So that $4.4 million basically gives us our amount to work with for new personnel, capital and raises," said Kurt Moore, justice of the peace.

Guenther said she calculated the cost of raises for employees, with each one percent raise costing roughly $327,000.

"So a 3 percent raise would be $900,000," said Tom Allen, justice of the peace and chairman of the committee.

Guenther said the Personnel Committee is still reviewing new personnel requests, That panel will meet at 6 p.m. Monday to complete its evaluation of the nearly $1.1 million in personnel requests.

Guenther also told the justices of the peace the county will have roughly $7 million in emergency reserve, which are mandated by state law to equal 10 percent of the overall budget. That reserve fund is meant for emergency needs only and must be replenished annually if used. The county will also have about $16.5 million in additional reserve that can be used for any needs. Guenther told the committee officials and department heads have submitted about $3.1 million in capital equipment requests for the general fund and road fund.

The committee heard brief presentations from the assessor, circuit clerk and county clerk about their budgets, with the assessor's office and circuit clerk making requests for new vehicles. Assessor Roderick Grieve said he wants to replace one of the oldest vehicles in his department and earmarked $30,000 for a new vehicle. Circuit Clerk Brenda DeShields said she needs two new vehicles and put $41,000 in her budget to cover the cost. The county clerk's budget included about $108,000 for voting equipment the county is considering, as well as $8,300 for a ballot printer.

County Judge Barry Moehring told the justices of the peace he's working to control spending in the departments under his office with an eye toward a county-wide goal of keeping spending at least one percent below projected revenue. Moehring said this would create "a gap in revenue from spending that could be used to finance the county's proposed courts building.

Moehring said he has reduced spending under his office by more than $900,000, compared to the initial 2017 budget request. He said that reduced spending estimate included 3 percent raises for employees in his budget, if the Quorum Court approves raises.

Moehring said the bulk of the cuts, $722,000 in the Road Department, come from changing priorities. He said the county plans to do less paving and more maintenance work, reducing the need for asphalt.

"We are doing everything we can to save money knowing we have these other needs," Moehring said.

Allen said the budget work will cover several more meetings, with the next few being largely informational meetings like Thursday's. He said the justices of the peace will have to set priorities and make some cuts to the requests they will see.

"We do have to make some tough choices this year to be able to do all the things we want to do, including taking care of our employees," he said.

NW News on 10/06/2017

Print Headline: County expects more revenue

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