County paychecks grow: Quorum court approves 40-cent raises for employees

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Carroll County employees got an early Christmas present Monday night from the county’s quorum court.

By an 11-0 vote, the court approved a 2018 budget ordinance that includes raises of 40 cents an hour for all county employees and 3 percent for elected officials except justices of the peace.

District 3 JP Lamont Richie, who played the lead role in preparing the proposed budget, said giving the same hourly increase to all employees benefits lower-paid employees more than a percentage increase would. Richie noted that the county was able to include the raises in the 2018 budget despite absorbing substantial increases in costs for health insurance and property insurance last year.

The health insurance premiums will rise just 3 percent for 2018, compared with a 38 percent hike this year, Richie said. He added that he had not seen information regarding property insurance premiums for 2018.

As part of the budgeting process, Richie said, each department was asked to submit a written explanation of its budget request. Richie said that helped to expedite the process.

The county’s projected expenses for 2018 are $11.51 million, Richie said, with projected revenues of $13.8 million.

Richie noted that in most cases, the county is limited by law to budgeting 90 percent of its anticipated revenue.

“In the end, we wanted to make sure that we would use the maximum amount of resources while also looking toward future needs,” he said.

The budget also includes a $50,000 increase for asphalt for use by the county road department as well as funding for a 2 3/4-ton dump truck, also for the road department.

In other business Monday night, JPs:

• approved a resolution supporting a judicial proclamation of Carroll County as a Purple Heart county;

• approved a resolution rescheduling the quorum court’s meetings for January and February to the second Monday of each month;

• approved two separate resolutions appointing Marjorie Boggs and Christina Courtright to the Carroll County Library Department Board of Trustees;

• approved a supplemental appropriation ordinance appropriating $5,000 from the county’s general fund to the Carroll County prosecuting attorney’s budget to cover unusually high costs of translations and transcriptions for criminal case this year;

• approved an ordinance approving and levying the county, municipal and school tax millage for the year 2017;

• and approved an ordinance approving and levying the voluntary contribution millage for the year 2017.

JPs also heard a presentation from Jim Crews of Commercial Audio Systems regarding proposed upgrades to the audio-visual technology in the courtroom at the Eastern District Courthouse, but took no action on the matter.

During the portion of the meeting reserved for JP comments, Richie told his colleagues that a security window approved by the quorum court last month has been installed at the Carroll County clerk’s office at the Western District Courthouse in Eureka Springs and praised County Clerk Jamie Correia for helping to ensure that wedding licenses could still be issued recently despite a computer issue. Richie also said that a 220-foot communications tower that the county recently purchased for installation at the Carroll County Detention has been delivered and is waiting to be erected. However, Richie said that the Federal Aviation Administration, which had initially approved the tower’s installation, has now rescinded that approval based on an objection from Mercy Hospital in Berryville. Richie explained that Mercy’s objection was related to a helicopter pad at the hospital, although he said it is unclear whether the helicopter pad itself is FAA-approved.

The quorum court’s next meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 8, at the Carroll County Eastern District Courthouse in Berryville.

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