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story.lead_photo.caption The Benton County Sheriff's Office in Bentonville.

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County justices of the peace on Monday put requests for three deputies and four jailers at the top of 21 requests for new employees in the 2018 budget.

The Personnel Committee ranked requests for personnel and departmental reorganizations and pay increases for the 2018 budget. The panel voted to send the recommendations on to the budget committee for more discussion.

County budget

Benton County’s justices of the peace will continue work on the 2018 budget when the Budget County meets at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Quorum Courtroom in the County Administration Building, 215 E. Central Ave.

Source: Staff Report

Benton County's justices of the peace were presented with about $1.4 million in personnel requests last month, with nearly $1 million coming from the Benton County Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff's Office and jail were the largest requests, with Sheriff Shawn Holloway saying the office needs eight more patrol deputies to handle the increasing volume of calls and the growing crime rate. He said the jail is chronically understaffed and needs another eight jailers. Holloway also is asking for two transport deputies.

Holloway told the justices of the peace the number of calls for service has grown from about 27,000 in 2014 to more than 52,000 in 2016 For 2017, he said, the number of calls is on a pace to top 60,000.

The members of the Personnel Committee ranked deputies and jailers as the top seven positions out of the 21 they considered. A request for an additional deputy public defender was ranked eighth; a request for an additional legal secretary for the prosecuting attorney was ranked ninth; and an additional juvenile probation officer was ranked tenth. The remainder of requests for the Sheriff's Office and jail filled out the list.

The requests for new positions was one part of the personnel requests presented to the Personnel Committee for review. Other offices asked for changes to positions, including the county judge, collector, assessor, county clerk, sheriff, prosecutor, circuit clerk and public defender.

The list of requests is posted on the public meetings dashboard on the county's website at www.bentoncountyar.gov.

Brenda Guenther, comptroller, said last month the cost for the changes is about $1.4 million, with about $217,000 coming from the commissioned account funds of the collector and assessor. According to Guenther, Assessor Roderick Grieve and Justice of the Peace Shirley Sandlin, those offices receive money from the revenue generated by work and only draw on the general fund for about 10 percent of their cost.

The requests from the prosecutor's office and the public defenders office mirrored Holloway's assessment of the growth in workload as it relates to their offices. The prosecutor is seeking one legal secretary to support two deputy prosecutors authorized by the state. The cost to the county is about $45,000. The public defenders office is seeking to add one deputy public defender and adjust the salary range for deputies in the office. The cost was put at about $80,000.

Prosecutor Nathan Smith said his office has seen the number of felony cases increase yearly, with about 2,000 felony cases in 2015 and around 2,300 in 2016.

The committee also reviewed proposed changes in the employment and salary policy. Changes included new language regarding the treatment of employees who use medical marijuana and a proposed catastrophic leave bank for employees.

Barb Ludwig, human resources administrator, said the medical marijuana policy will likely be changed. Brenda DeShields, circuit clerk, said the Association of Arkansas Counties is working on a "model policy" to recommend to all 75 Arkansas Counties. DeShields said the AAC board will be discussing the model policy on Wednesday and she will report back to the justices of the peace.

The catastrophic leave bank was criticized by Brent Meyers and Bob Bland, who argued it wasn't a proper use of taxpayer dollars.

Moehring said the bank is a benefit, similar to benefits in many other governmental entities and private businesses, allowing employees to help other employees in need. Moehring said the long list of criteria for employees to qualify for the ensures it will be used rarely. He said there's no budgetary impact to the county.

"I consider myself a defender of taxpayer dollars," Moehring said. "This will be utilized in extremely rare instances."

Bland argued the policy will cost money.

"When you say there's no budget impact, that is politician speech," Bland said. "There may not be a budgetary impact but there is a monetary impact. When you pay someone there is a monetary impact."

NW News on 10/10/2017

Print Headline: County officials rank personnel requests

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