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BENTONVILLE -- Benton County justices of the peace said Thursday they want elected officials and departments to stay within their budgets.

The Finance Committee reviewed the final fund summaries for 2017 and were told the jail was over budget for the year, having spent about 115 percent of what was budgeted in other services, spending $6,046,049 compared with a budget of $5,260,000, according to Brenda Guenther, comptroller.

Court building update

Benton County’s Committee of the Whole will hear an update on the proposed $25 million courts building at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Quorum Courtroom in the County Administration Building, 215 E. Central Ave. in Bentonville.

Source: Staff report

Joel Jones, justice of the peace for District 7, said the Sheriff's Office needs to keep within its budget and Guenther's office needs to monitor spending more closely so department don't go over budget.

"How is this going to be stopped?" Jones asked Guenther. "There are two levels here. One is they need to be more diligent with it. The other is how can you and your staff get a better handle on that? We've added money twice and it's still overspent."

Tom Allen, justice of the peace for District 4 and committee chairman, said the problem isn't just with the jail but the jail budget is among those that needs to be monitored.

"What's the point in having a budget if they're not going to adhere to it?" Allen said.

The Juvenile Probation Department came in for similar criticism later in the meeting when Guenther presented an ordinance including a request for $30,000 to buy a new van along with $950 for a software license and $3,000 for a computer and desk. Drew Shover, chief juvenile probation officer, said the plans to convert part of the detention center into a youth home has shown the need for a van to take the youths staying there to job fairs and other activities. The money would be taken from a fund provided for in the juvenile court and not the general fund. Shover said the center rented vans in the past but the cost was between $200 and $300 a day and buying a van would allow the shelter to take the youths to more activities.

Shover said the center is exploring alternative sources of money and Jones made a motion to remove the funding for the van from the ordinance.

Allen said he supported the need for the van, but couldn't support spending money for it just a two months after the county completed work on the 2018 budget without any money for the van being included.

"Everything you've presented seems to be needed," Allen said."But I'm not happy with the timing. It's February. I don't want to send a message to any of the elected officials that if you forget something just bring it to us and we'll fix it for you."

The committee sent the ordinance on to the Committee of the Whole for further consideration, without money for the van.

Also Thursday, Guenther briefed the justices of the peace on larger-than-expected sales tax receipts for January, represented sales taxes collected in November. Merchants collect the sales tax and send it to the state Department of Finance and Administration, which then distributes the money among the taxing entities.

Guenther said Benton County received $1,269,509 in January, which is up by about $558,000 from the $711,107 received in January 2017. Guenther said the only information available from the state is the category of electrical goods wholesalers showed a large increase, from about $40,000 in 2017 to about $2.6 million in 2018. She said businesses spending more than $2,500 in sales tax in a transaction can apply to the state for rebates, so the county can't be sure how much of the increase in revenue it will have.

"The amount above that ($2,500) could be rebated any time within the next 12 months," she said.

The justices of the peace agreed to set aside the increase in revenue over what was expected and wait to see if there are rebates.

Kurt Moore, justice of the peace for District 13, called the additional money "fool's gold."

Allen said even if there are rebates, the higher sales tax revenue is a positive sign.

"It does show there's a lot of economic activity," Allen said. "No matter what the rebate is, it's going to be a good month for us."

NW News on 02/09/2018

Print Headline: County officials eye budget problems

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