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Washington County officials fret over long-term personnel costs, requests

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Photographs by David Gottschalk

The Washington County Courthouse, Tuesday, February 14, 2017 in downtown Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Five proposed new or upgraded county positions will cost more in the long run, justices of the peace said Monday during the Washington County Personnel Committee.

"I just think everybody needs to realize these are not cost-neutral," said Justice of the Peace Eva Madison, a Democrat representing northeastern Fayetteville. "These are upgrades that will cost more."

Madison isn't on the committee but is chairwoman of the Finance and Budget Committee. Justices of the peace are struggling to work through next year's $68 million budget, which, if approved, has $5 million more in expenditures than expected revenue.

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The committee tabled a decision on the new positions until next month. The budget must be approved by the end of December.

The positions and changes will be paid for with money saved from unfilled positions, said Michael Watson, human resources director. If not used, that money would go back into the general fund.

Proposed new positions are a building maintenance manager and night maintenance manager in the Sheriff's Office.

An office manager position would change to deputy director and educator for emergency services. The 911 deputy coordinator would be upgraded to a deputy director, and a paralegal position would become an assistant county attorney.

"I think the underlying theme is that, by having these positions, we'll be able to do the jobs we are required to do more efficiently," Watson said.

The Job Evaluation and Salary Administration Program committee approved the changes and new positions earlier Monday. All the positions are in County Judge's departments, records show.

Some of the changes will mean an increase in salary. For example, the assistant county attorney position's salary would increase from $34,300 to $40,000, Watson said.

The impact on the long-term budget is unclear, said Justice of the Peace Joe Kieklak, a Democrat representing southern Fayetteville. How many positions have been cut in each department compared with positions created weren't available Monday, Watson said.

Without those figures, Kieklak said he couldn't tell if the county is saving money or streamlining government operations.

Other justices of the peace supported Wood, who has proposed significant budget cuts inside his departments. Wood's tactics are working, said Justice of the Peace Butch Pond, a Republican representing western Washington County.

Wood has implemented a new program to reduce the animal population at the Washington County animal shelter. He also has continued to upgrade county roads while fixing flood-damages countywide, justices of the peace said.

"Rearranging and making things more efficient -- we're getting results," Pond said.

NW News on 10/12/2017

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