Sheriff speaks out, urges moving ahead with salary study
CARROLL COUNTY -- For the first time, Carroll County Sheriff Bob Grudek has publicly urged County Judge Sam Barr to move forward with a proposed study of county salaries.
His comments came at the beginning of a Nov. 16 meeting of the Quorum Court.
"I feel that that study would be beneficial to all the county employees," Grudek told the court, "especially to the Sheriff's Office."
Grudek explained that he thought his deputies were underpaid.
"I feel that our deputies are paid somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 less than their counterparts -- being Eureka Springs, Green Forest, or Berryville," he said.
Justices of the Peace and Barr have been at an impasse over the study since July, when JPs allocated up to $20,000 for the proposal. Since then, Barr has refused to pursue the study.
Prosecuting Attorney Tony Rogers has said Barr is within his rights. Although JPs are the only ones who can allocate money for the study, Barr is the only one with the authority to actually sign the contract.
Still, JPs have publicly criticized Barr for his stance on the issue.
For his part, Barr has questioned the usefulness of the proposal, given the fact that JPs have said there will be no raises in 2013 regardless of the study's recommendations.
Beyond this, Barr has said the study would be a waste of money.
After all, the Arkansas Association of Counties already publishes a salary survey that lists the compensation of employees of every county in the state, and this document is available free of charge.
On the other hand, JPs Ronald Flake and Lamont Richie, two vocal proponents of the study, have argued JPs need more detailed information to fulfill their constitutional mandate to set salaries.
They point out that the survey makes no attempt to define the responsibilities of each listed position or to impose a uniform vocabulary on the information presented.
Thus, Richie said, it is impossible to tell if they are comparing "apples to apples."
At this month's meeting, Grudek sided with the JPs. He said he felt the study was the only way to prove that Carroll County deputies were underpaid.
"I know $20,000 is a lot of money," he said, "but it's not gonna get any cheaper to do the study, and if we wait till next year, I feel that by the time we would approve the money for it, and by the time it's done, and by the time it's implemented, you're looking at probably 2015."
The sheriff also questioned whether the county was in as dire financial condition as previously suggested by the Budget Committee.
The committee had called for 10 percent cuts county wide earlier this fall, due to increasing costs for retirement and health insurance benefits and predicted revenue losses.
"Looking at the numbers we're generating this year, and what I presented to you, I don't see where we're going to have that big of a financial crisis in our county," Grudek said. "I think the 10 percent is just too drastic of a cut."
Later in the meeting, County Assessor JoAnn Harris told JPs that next year's revenue outlook was, indeed, brightening.
Harris said property tax revenue should actually increase next year, contradicting earlier predictions.
"Twenty thousand dollars is a good investment in the employees of Carroll County," Grudek concluded, "and I think it is a small amount to pay and a small thank you and a big thank you to the people who have worked hard (for our county)."