If the final budget goes the way of a Tuesday meeting of the Unicoi County Commission’s Finance Committee, the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department will not receive as much funding as was being sought for the department in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Discussion at the meeting was divided into two parts, with the committee first looking at the UCSD’s general operating budget and later the budget for operation of the county’s jails. The committee approved a motion from Commissioner Loren Thomas to set the budget at $1,905,057, a decrease of $46,435 from what the department was seeking for its operational budget in the 2011-12 fiscal year. The UCSD was seeking $1,951,492.
Prior to this vote, the committee voted down a proposal made by Commissioner and Finance Committee Chairman Bill Hensley, who suggested that the county set the UCSD 2011-12 operational budget at $1,878,480, its original amount to start the 2010-11 fiscal year. This would be a difference of a little more than $73,000, Hensley said.
“If we have the same money we had last year, and we don’t get any assistance on the cars or anything, there’s no way we can make it on last year’s budget,” UCSD Chief Deputy Ronnie Adkins said. “There’s just no way. It’s not going to happen.”
The vote on this motion failed by a 6-3 vote. Those who voted against this measure were Mickey Hatcher, Sue Jean Wilson, James Howell, Gene Wilson, Thomas and Dwight Bennett.
Thomas’s motion that was eventually approved was to set the UCSD operational budget at its original amount to start the 2010-11 fiscal year, but to include emergency dispatcher Eddie Foster’s $24,811 salary, which was not included in the budget at the start of the prior fiscal year, and $1,766 for increased medical costs.
The committee next addressed the UCSD’s request for jail funding. In all, the department was seeking $824,382 for expenses associated with operations of the Unicoi County Jail and the recently opened jail workhouse. Although the budgets for the two facilities were divided, members of the finance committee opted to address their budgets at the same time.
The UCSD was seeking $573,746 for the jail and $250,636 for the workhouse. After some discussion, the committee unanimously approved a motion made by Hatcher for the county to budget $800,000 for the operations of both facilities and allow the UCSD to divide this funding between the two how it sees fit. This falls about halfway between what the department spent on jails in the previous fiscal year and what it was seeking this year, Hatcher said.
The $800,000 represents $24,382 less than what the UCSD was seeking for operation of the jails.
Before either of the committee’s votes, Adkins opened the meeting by telling committee members that while the UCSD had resolved many of the additional budgetary requests previously sought by Sheriff Kent Harris for items such as additional personnel and new police cruisers, step raises for employees and help with the purchase of new cruisers were two items that he felt should be addressed. Harris was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.
“The step raises and the cars are very, very important,” Adkins said.
Adkins said the UCSD is starting to realize the effects of not having purchased new cruisers in the past four years, but he said the UCSD would be willing to use some of the department’s drug fund money to help with the purchase of new cruisers.
“Not all of our cars are bad, but it only takes three or four to become a money pit and a drain on the budget,” he said.
Hensley said the matter of step raises for county employees will be discussed by the finance committee at a later time.
Adkins also said the UCSD would be agreeable to increasing the county’s jail fee from $10 per day. This issue may be up for the commission’s consideration in the near future.