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Washington County officials OK rental assistance fund

by Tom Sissom | July 7, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.
The Washington County Courthouse is seen in Fayetteville in this file photo. (File photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette/STACY RYBURN)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington County officials on Tuesday approved a fund to track about $2.3 million the county has just received in emergency rental assistance money.

The County's Finance and Budget Committee approved the creation of a grant fund to handle money received under the federal American Rescue Plan Act to provide assistance to those affected by the covid-19 pandemic. The county is expected to receive about $5.6 million in total funding and has already received half of that amount.

Washington County was previously awarded about $7.1 million for rental assistance and other housing needs related to the covid-19 pandemic. The county has worked with the Fayetteville Housing Authority and the Springdale Housing Authority to handle those funds.

Brian Lester, county attorney, said the Fayetteville Housing Authority still has about $300,000 in county funds available while the Springdale Housing Authority has about $1 million in county funds remaining. The county provided each of the entities with about $1.5 million of the initial $7.1 million for housing assistance.

The county has also set up its own Emergency Rental Assistance program, and information on how county residents can determine their eligibility to apply for relief funds can be found on the county's website. Lester told the justices of the peace the county has received about 60 applications for assistance, but he had no information on the status of those applications or any money distributed through the county program.

The committee also endorsed a proposal from Jim Wilson, justice of the peace for District 14, to pay all of the elected officials the maximum amount allowed by state law.

Arkansas's 75 counties are divided according to population into seven classes, with the three largest by population being Pulaski, Benton and Washington counties in class 7.

State law sets salary ranges for elected officials in each class of county. For 2021, according to information from Benton County's 2021 budget, the ranges for county judges and sheriffs in class 7 counties was a minimum of $49,833 and a maximum of $137,349. The remaining county elected officials -- the assessor, collector, coroner, circuit clerk, county clerk and treasurer -- all have a range of a minimum of $45,833 to a maximum of $129,293.

Washington County adopted an ordinance in 2016 that set elected officials pay at 80% of the state maximum for their first year in office. As amended in a later budget control ordinance, the pay would increase by 2.5% each year they remained in office after that until at nine years it reached 100% of the maximum allowed by state law. The salaries would increase after that only when the state increased the maximum allowed.

According to Wilson, Sheriff Tim Helder's 2021 salary was $137,349.

County Coroner Roger Morris' 2021 salary was $129,293.

Circuit Clerk Kyle Sylvester's 2021 salary was $129,293. County Clerk Becky Lewallen's 2021 salary was also $129,293.

County Judge Joseph Wood's salary was $123,615.

Assessor Russell Hill's 2021 salary was $122,829. County Treasurer Bobby Hill was also paid $122,829.

County Collector Angela Wood's 2021 salary was $116,364.

Wilson said bringing all eight of the county elected officials to the maximum salary allowed would add about $27,450 to the 2022 budget.

Also Tuesday, the justices of the peace recommended spending $10,545 in bonuses for employees of the County Coroner's Office for the time they worked during the covid-19 pandemic. The committee recommended paying each full-time employee $50 for each pay period they worked during the pandemic and paying part-time employees $25 for each pay period they worked.

In May, the Quorum Court approved spending about $298,000 in bonuses for employees of the Detention Center and the Juvenile Detention Center for working during the pandemic.

The money for the bonuses was taken from the $4.5 million the county received in federal covid relief funds under the CARES Act.

More News

County budget

The Washington County Quorum Court’s Finance & Budget Committee will have four special meetings in July and August as the county begins work on its 2022 budget. The committee will meet on July 20, July 29, Aug. 24 and Aug. 31, according to committee chairman Patrick Deakins.

Source: NWA Democrat-Gazette

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