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story.lead_photo.caption The Benton County Courthouse. - Photo by Ben Goff

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County officials say revenue for 2019 should cover the county's operating budgets, including employee raises of 2 percent and all of the county department's capital requests.

The county's Finance Committee, meeting as the Budget Committee, heard Brenda Guenther, comptroller, summarize the county's revenue estimates for the general fund and road fund. Guenther said the county would begin 2019 with a surplus of about $97,000 if all of the budgets are approved as submitted, along with all of the capital requests and the 2 percent raises.

What’s next

Benton County’s justice of the peace will hold their next budget meeting at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 16 in the Quorum Courtroom in the County Administration Building, 215 E. Central Ave. in Bentonville.

"That's very good compared to previous years," Guenther said.

Guenther said the county's net revenue for 2019 is estimated at about $58 million.

Guenther said each 1 percent raise for employees costs the county between $250,000 and $300,000. Also, Guenther said, reorganizations and personnel changes that would cost the county about $250,000 were not included in the initial budget. If those costs are included the county would show a deficit of about $153,000.

Tom Allen, justice of the peace for District 4 and chairman of the committee, said the initial projections are very good.

"Overall, I've seen a lot worse," Allen said. "Benton County is very fortunate to have the healthy economy that we have."

Guenther said the county's $5.2 million in capital requests include new vehicles, machinery and equipment, and building projects. The Road Department has about $2.8 million in requests for vehicles and equipment, but also projects receiving about $700,000 in revenue from the sale of older vehicles. Building projects for the Sheriff's Office and jail total about $356,000. Other departments have building projects costing about $340,000. About $925,000 is estimated for county bridge projects to cover design work on the Robinson Road Bridge and construction work on Cow Face Road Bridge.

County Judge Barry Moehring told the justices of the peace the departments under his supervision will show little change from 2018 to 2019.

"My budgets are essentially flat, year to year," Moehring said. "That does depend on whether we get 2 percent raises or 3 percent raises."

Moehring said that while the Quorum Court has set a target of 2 percent raises he will advocate for 3 percent increases, with the elected officials and department heads to determine how much would be cost-of-living increases and how much would be merit increases.

Moehring said the county's Road Department will continue to emphasize road maintenance over construction.

According to the plan presented Monday, the Road Department plans for about 54 miles of paved road improvements in 2019. Of that, 28.3 miles will be asphalt overlay and chip-and-seal paving work. Another 12.4 miles will be for crack sealing and about 11.9 miles will be fog sealing. The county plans to hire an outside company to do pothole repair with a target of having 90 potholes filled.

Also in 2019, improvements are planned for 15 dirt roads, totaling about 10 miles of improvements.

The county's costs for rural ambulance service are expected to drop, if the county reached an agreement with Northwest heath System to cover the west side of the county. According to Robert McGowen, emergency services administrator, the county's costs with the new agreement in place should drop from about $1.51 million in 2018 to about $1.31 million in 2019. That cost would be covered by the county's emergency services millage, which is estimated to raise about $1,058,000, and the voluntary ambulance service millage which is expected to raise about $287,000. In the 2018 budget the county had subsidized the rural ambulance costs with about $262,000 from the general fund.

"The biggest point we can make is that it will be budget neutral, with no increase from the county," McGowen said.

NW News on 10/09/2018

Print Headline: County officials get budget update

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