YEAR IN REVIEW: Quorum Court closes out relatively smooth 12 months

Friday, December 28, 2012

CARROLL COUNTY -- The last year was mostly smooth sailing for the Carroll County Quorum Court. However, Justices of the Peace butted heads with each other and County Judge Sam Barr during the last half of 2012 over a proposed study of county salaries and struggled to craft a balanced budget amid rising personnel costs and sagging revenue.

Following is a short recap of some of the major issues JPs faced in 2012:

Salary Salvos

Justices of the Peace and Barr have been at an impasse over a proposed study of county salaries 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, several 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. Several JPs have expressed similar views.

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.

For more on this issue, read our past reports online:

Budget Business

Justices of the Peace spent the latter months of 2012 wrestling with the '13 budget.

The $10.2 million roadmap passed in December absorbs approximately $250,000 of increases to retirement and health insurance benefits without significantly reducing county services, laying off employees, or increasing the county's bottom line.

In fact, the budget envisions spending cuts of about 0.3 percent from 2012. JPs had initially anticipated much steeper cuts. However, early fears of drastically reduced revenue turned out to be inflated.

Though no employees will be laid off, the budget does not include any raises and eliminates already vacant positions at the County Detention Center, dispatch, and the Sheriff's Office -- positions Sheriff Bob Grudek had said he hoped to fill.

Not doing so, the sheriff warned, could lead to higher overtime costs and risk overworking his staff.

JPs gave the county library system a reprieve, though, restoring their original funding requests after the threat of steep cuts to funding for children's programming, books, and expanded computer services.

This was only the second year that Barr has appointed a special committee to draft the budget. JPs said the committee had made the process more efficient. They plan to meet throughout 2013, in the hope of further easing the process.

For more information on this issue, refer to our past reports online:

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