The end of the year tax numbers are finally in, and it’s safe to say that Baxter County is still experiencing a boom in business.
This year saw a 12.2% increase in its year-to-date revenue for a total of $565,446.59. The county’s general fund is also up by $14.9% or $58,443.02 this Dec. compared to the same time last year.
The total projected revenue for the county is up by up 21.0% or $904,116.18. At the same time, last year’s projected revenue for the county came in at $438,669, or a 10% increase.
Baxter County’s jailhouse also showed a substantial increase in revenue this year by clocking in at 12.6% or $253,072.07 over last year’s revenue. Its projected revenues are expected to come in at a 13% increase or $261,049.99.
This year, growth throughout the county has been good, with new businesses opening regularly.
On Dec. 7, the Baxter County Quorum Court passed a record-breaking budget of $29.9 million. The total estimated revenue for the county for next year is set at $33.2 million. Arkansas counties are constitutionally required to budget 90% of the annual estimated revenue.
Next year’s budget includes a $1 per hour pay raise for all county employees along with a 3% pay raise for their starting date anniversary. The total cost for the pay raise comes in at $521,000.
County employees can expect to see the raise go into effect Jan. 1.
Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass said the pay raise is in preparation for a potential $15 an hour minimum wage hike. Baxter County is one of the only two counties in Arkansas to experience two years of back-to-back growth since the COVID-19 pandemic started at the beginning of 2020.
County employees can also expect to receive premium pay next year through funds appropriated with money from the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Joe Biden in March of this year.
Baxter County is set to receive $4 million from the American Rescue Plan in the spring of next year. A total of $731,000 has been appropriated to go toward county employees.
Overall, county employees are expected to receive a $1.2 million increase in pay next year or about $3,000 extra per person.
There are no major development projects cutting into the county’s budget next year, allowing the county to fully fund its 911 service without dipping into its general fund for the first time in the program’s almost 40 year history.
The only construction project slated for next year is a new bridge on Denton Ferry Road. The grant for the bridge is currently at $860,000.
Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery also secured a major pay raise for his deputies and jailers after taking the issue up with the Quorum Court.
Sheriff Montgomery has been facing retention issues for the past few years, leading to his decision to ask the court for an additional $271,000 for pay increases for deputies and jailers.
Deputies’ starting wages will now be set at $16.75 an hour, while jailers can expect to receive $15.75 an hour to start. Previous starting wages for both deputies and jailers were $12.83 and $12.16 an hour. The increase will put an additional $7,000-8,000 annually into the pockets of BCSO employees.
The Quorum Court also granted Sheriff Montgomery’s request to separate the Sheriff’s Office pay scale for the county’s current system. This new pay scale allows Montgomery to offer higher wages to experienced deputies and jailers that joined the department. He said he could offer up to a 24% increase in starting wages.
Under his plan, a certified deputy with 10 years of experience would receive credit at a 50% rate or five years, with a 3% pay bump for each of those five years, totaling a 15% increase in pay to start.
The Sheriff’s Office is currently looking to fill new deputy and jailer positions.