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The Baxter County Quorum Court held a short monthly meeting at the Baxter County Courthouse Tuesday evening.
This month’s meeting saw the county adopt a nearly $30 million budget for the 2024 fiscal year, in addition to making some mandated changes to the county’s sick leave policy.
As always, the first business for the night saw the court appropriate money for the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office from the month of Oct. The ordinance appropriated $16,568.71 from various fees, donations and reimbursements placed into Sheriff Montgomery’s 2023 budget.
A total of $11,500.75 of that money will be expended on general supplies, fuel, parts and repair, and training. The Sheriff’s 2023 animal control fund also received $475.00. A total of $2,296.19 is set to be spent on special projects within the Sheriff’s Office and $2,296.77 will be expended to the county jail fund to cover equipment, medicine, drugs and food.
Following its Sheriff’s appropriation ordinance, the court discussed and voted on adopting Baxter County’s 2024 annual budget.
Next year’s budget is expected to come in at $28,629,292.42 in appropriated expenditures, with an expected revenue stream of $40,488,863.57. This will leave the county with $11,859,571.15 in surplus funding for the year.
Under Arkansas law, county officials are required to stay within their yearly budget, which runs from Jan.1 to Dec. 31.
According to state law, a budget is based on projected revenues expected to come in over a 12-month period. Budgets are not based on “cash in the bank.” State law also imposes a 90% budget cap on county budgets, though there are some exceptions to the rule.
The county’s 2023 budget came in with $27,326,468 in appropriated expenditures and $36,174,824 in expected revenue, leaving the county with $8,848,356 in surplus revenue. The 2023 budget marked the first time that county employees received a starting wage of $15 an hour.
FY2024’s budget saw some increases across the board for specific departments including the Sheriff’s Office, the County Maintenance Shop, the Road and Bridge budget and the Baxter County Election Commission.
The Clerk’s Office, Treasurer’s Department and Baxter County OEM will also receive small increases next year. The Quorum Court, County Coroner and Board of Equalization will have smaller budgets heading into the new year.
Following the approval of the budget, the court took up an ordinance to appropriate $55,795.12 from the employee liability fund into the 911 and Sheriff’s Office Budget to cover unexpected employee payouts in personnel services.
After moving funds from the liability fund, the Quorum Court moved $225,000 from the additional motor fuel tax fund into the additional motor tax fund in 2023. These funds were received from a grant reimbursement for the Denton Ferry Road Bridge project and need to be appropriated for the extended paving of Denton Ferry Road.
The court also appropriated $8,462 into the recycling project 2023 budget. The ordinance is needed due to a returned insurance payment that was uncashed. The court then took action to correct a line item in the LATC fund OEM budget. An affidavit for payment was paid out of the 2023 budget in the amount of $15,175.34 when it should have been paid out of the 2022 budget.
The last three ordinances of the night covered sick leave payout to the tune of $284,903.74 for Baxter County employees, the re-appropriation of funds in the 2022 budget that were authorized for the purpose of a state-mandated budget clean-up, and changes to the Baxter County and Sheriff’s Office personnel policy.
Changes to the policy manual will cover updates and revisions to holiday leave, sick leave, and FMLA leave. A copy of the updated manual can be seen in the ordinance packet below.
The main focus of discussion surrounding the changes to the county’s policy manual focused on the new mandates to the county’s sick leave policy for salaried and exempt employees.
Under the new payout change, sick leave payout for salaried/exempt employees will be a one-time lump sum payment and will no longer be incorporated into the base pay for employees during future salary adjustments.
“This action was deemed necessary to align Baxter County’s personnel policies with federal statutes pertaining to sick time accruals. Federal law mandates that only hourly and not salary employees are allowed to accrue sick time,” said Justice of the Peace Dennis Frank.
The last items of business for the night saw the court take up resolutions to re-appoint Mary Norgaard and Sidney Edelbrock to the Clarkridge Volunteer Fire Department Board of Commissioners, the re-appointment of Gene Carson, James Higgins and David Witherington to the Midway Fire Protection District Board of Commissioners, and the appointment of Dave Wheeler to the Henderson Volunteer Fire Department Board of Commissioners.