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Committee approves inquiry into salary increase for state employees

Michael Hibblen
The Arkansas Legislative Audit has been approved to look into a recent salary increase for state employees.

The Arkansas Legislative Joint Auditing Committee unanimously approved a motion that would allow the Arkansas Legislative Audit to look into a recent 2% salary increase for state employees.

In February, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a plan to increase state employee pay by 2% as a way to help employees deal with inflation. Franklin Arey, legal counsel for the Arkansas Legislative Audit, explained to lawmakers that the governor has the authority to increase salaries; the concern with the salary increases has to do with the implementation.

“If it [the salary increases] was only effective on Feb. 5 then how do you make it retroactive back to last summer,” Arey told the committee. “The second thing is and it has been largely corrected to some degree is the lump sum payments were initially made were in recent paychecks, but the law says they are supposed to be made at the end of the fiscal year.”

Scott Hardin, communications director for the Department of Finance and Administration, said the 2022 fiscal year ends on June 30, 2022.

The inquiry won’t be directed at the governor’s office, Arey said. Payroll is the responsibility of the Office of Personnel and Management, which is under the Department of Transformation and Shared Services.

In an email to KUAR News, Alex Johnston, chief of staff for the Department of Transformation and Shared Services, said 1,352 employees received a lump sum payment in their Feb. 25 paychecks. The Office of Personnel and Management caught the mistake, but said it couldn’t make corrections since payments had already been made. Johnston said March 11 paychecks were adjusted to correct the mistakes on the Feb. 25 payroll. $1.3 million worth of payments were corrected, Johnston said.

Roger Norman, legislative auditor for the Arkansas Legislative Audit, said a report on what the agency finds will be published.

According to the Arkansas Legislative Audit’s website, the agency works with the Legislature to provide oversight of local and state government.

Ronak Patel was a reporter for KUAR News focusing on state and local government.