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Benton County Quorum Court approves 2021 budget

by Mike Jones | November 20, 2020 at 7:32 a.m.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/CHARLIE KAIJO Benton County's special election to vote on building a new court facility begins March 12. If the proposed tax increase passes, the county would spend another $5 million to update the downtown Bentonville courthouse, including the courtroom on the third floor.

BENTONVILLE -- The Quorum Court approved the 2021 budget during an online meeting Thursday night.

The total budget (general and road) is just under $60 million. The county has $12.6 million in reserve. The county has a surplus of $1.1 million.

Justices of the peace, meeting as the Budget Committee, discussed budget requests from elected officials last month.

Committee Chairman Tom Allen said this budget process was one of the best he's experienced during his tenure on the Quorum Court.

"I believe one reason it was so smooth was because of the fact that we asked all of the elected officials to revise their 2020 budget early in the year due to the concern of decreased revenues and increased expenses related to covid-19," Allen said. "The requests from the elected officials for the 2021 budget were well beneath our projected revenue for 2021. They all bought into a teamwork mentality to really take the conservative approach due to what might be in store for us with covid-19 in 2021."

The Road Department's budget is $13.4 million. The Sheriff's Office budget is $12.4 million and the jail is at $11.4 million.

In the budget is 3% merit raises for employees with an overall cap of 5%, according to documents.

County Judge Barry Moehring also briefly discussed an amendment to the courthouse expansion budget at the meeting as justices of the peace moved through the agenda in under 40 minutes.

A new courtroom is needed for Christine Horwart, who was elected in March and will be the county's seventh circuit court judge. She takes office Jan. 1. The Arkansas Legislature added the judgeship to assist with the increasing caseload.

The county plans to demolish the one-story section behind the courthouse that housed the coroner's office. A two-story addition is planned on the site with a lobby area on the first floor. Horwart's courtroom and office area will be on the second floor. The expansion will add 5,500 square feet to the downtown courthouse, which is 28,080 square feet.

The current expansion plan includes an awning that extends over the concrete walkway to the entrance and exit for the building. The awning will be replaced with a covered extension of the building itself.

Moehring called the extension a more robust cover for people who sometimes have to wait outside to get into the courthouse.

Justices of the peace Mike McKenzie and Shirley Sandlin said they liked the improvement.

The county had allocated $30,000 for the original awning. Moehring said up to to $75,000 more would be needed for the extension. The amendment was approved as part of the 2021 budget. The money will come from the surplus.

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Quorum Court action

Benton County’s Quorum Court on Thursday night also:

Called for an election for the Sunday sale of alcoholic beverages in Gentry. The election will be Feb. 9.

Levied millage rates for the county and each city, school district and special tax unit in the county.

Approved destruction of some district court records retained for at least three years.

Transferred $50,000 from the Coronavirus Relief Fund for covid-related expenses in the jail for a bipolar ionization air disinfection system, and $25,000 for election costs incurred by the County Clerk’s office, which will be submitted for reimbursement from the federal election grant administered by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Source: Benton County

Mike Jones may be reached by email at [email protected]


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