Jonesboro capital improvements, public safety funding to face scrutiny

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 344 views 

The work of a committee looking into the overall salary issue for Jonesboro city employees has been put on hold, pending the creation of a committee looking into the salaries of police officers, council member Darrel Dover said Wednesday (May 11).

Dover, who serves on the Jonesboro Finance Committee, is also a member of the Salary and Longevity Committee. The committee was created last year to come up with ideas to address questions over the city’s salary schedule including looking at longevity pay among other issues.

Earlier this month, the Jonesboro Public Safety Committee created a committee to look into the police salary issue. The city has lost 16 officers so far this year to other jobs, with officers saying at public meetings that pay was a major reason for the departures. At the meeting, Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott said it would cost about $1.2 million to deal with longevity and compression pay issues.

Dover said the committees will work together to come up with a solution to the issue, including providing information to members of both committees. Dover said he would like to talk to Public Safety chairman Mitch Johnson first before going into specifics about what the goals for the committees will be. However, Dover said the overall salary committee has discovered several things.

“We hired (Fayetteville-based) Johansen to study where the city stood compared to the rest of Arkansas,” Dover said. “Johansen said we were behind in our salaries. But the question is how fast to get those (salaries) up while being fiscally prudent.”

Dover said there has been discussion over using reserves, which total about $40 million, to cover the salary issues. However, Dover said the use of the phrase “reserve” was a misnomer due to the funds being more of fund balances in particular accounts. The city also has several capital improvement projects on tap this year, including building a $20 million overpass at Highland Drive and Nettleton Avenue (with the city’s share nearly $4 million).

“It is the city council decision on capital improvements,” Dover said, noting revenue is pretty much set for the year.

Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin is scheduled to present to council members a plan for capital improvements through 2020 at the council’s May 17 meeting. Perrin said the $4 million would be set aside for the overall overpass project, while the city would set aside $8 million in order to receive about $80 million in federal and state highway funding over the next five years. The funding would be crucial in getting highway projects done in Jonesboro, Perrin said.

“The way it is now, if you participate, you go to the top of the list,” Perrin said.