JPs approve 1st reading of 2021 budget, OK employee bonus

Thursday, November 19, 2020

By Scott Loftis

The Carroll County Quorum Court approved the first reading of a proposed 2021 county budget at Monday’s November meeting at Southern Heights Baptist Church in Berryville.

The quorum court plans to have the second and third readings and vote on the budget proposal at its December meeting.

The quorum court also voted 10-0 in favor a resolution to award year-end bonuses of $750 to all full-time county employees and $500 to all part-time employees.

District 6 JP Craig Hicks, a member of the budget and finance committee, said the bonuses are intended to show the quorum court’s gratitude to county employees.

“We all felt like this would be a great way to let the employees of Carroll County know how much we appreciate them,” Hicks said.

The bonuses, which will not be paid to quorum court members, will cost the county approximately $120,000.

District 1 Justice of the Peace Jack Deaton said the proposed 2021 budget projects an increase of $600,000 in county revenue, with almost all of that money earmarked for expenditure. The proposal does not include raises for county employees, with the exception of an increase of 65 cents an hour for 22 detention officers at the Carroll County Detention Center.

“The budget committee felt like that was an immediate need,” Hicks said.

“One thing I’ve noticed over the years is wherever you have the most turnover is usually where you need to give raises,” said District 10 JP Larry Swofford, who chaired the meeting in the absence of County Judge Sam Barr.

The proposed budget projects the county’s 2021 general fund revenue at $5,782,121.70, with projected general fund expenses of $3,301,023.02.

Tensions flared briefly during the meeting when District 3 JP Harrie Farrow objected to Sheriff Jim Ross not wearing a mask.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sitting way in the back,” Ross said. “I’m following the governor’s guidelines.”

“We’re in an enclosed space,” Farrow replied. “We’re all breathing the air that you’re breathing out.”

Ross ultimately donned a mask for the remainder of the meeting, but immediately after her exchange with Ross, Farrow pointed out that District 8 JP Don McNeely’s mask was below his nose.

“I’m going to leave if we’re not going to abide by the rules,” Farrow said.

McNeely said the personnel committee met recently to discuss filling District 4 JP Marty Johnson’s position on the quorum court, since he hasn’t attended a meeting in several months. McNeely said Gov. Asa Hutchinson will appoint someone to fill the position. The quorum court will appoint someone to fill the position currently held by circuit clerk Ramona Wilson, who is retiring at the end of the year.

Later in the meeting, Deaton asked his fellow JPs to consider another day and time for the quorum court’s regular monthly meeting, currently held at 5 p.m. on the third Monday of each month. Deaton said Carroll County prosecuting attorney Tony Rogers had requested the possible change since prosecutors are often in court late on Monday. JPs will meet on Jan. 4, 2021, to set the meeting schedule for the next year.

The quorum court’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21, at Southern Heights Baptist Church, 279 Highway 221 South in Berryville.

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