JPs approve budget adjustments for sheriff's office

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Carroll County Quorum Court on Monday approved a series of ordinances adjusting the 2019 budget for the county sheriff’s office.

The three ordinances — regarding the budgets for the sheriff’s office, the county detention center and emergency dispatch — were proposed at the request of Sheriff Jim Ross. While the ordinances increase salaries for some of the highest-ranking members of the sheriff’s office staff, the overall result will be a slight savings to the county.

Ross had discussed the proposed changes during a meeting with the quorum court’s joint budget and finance committee on Jan. 31. At that meeting, county treasurer Makita Williams pointed County treasurer Makita Williams pointed out a discrepancy between the salaries authorized in the original 2019 budget ordinance, those requested by Ross and a third set of numbers whose origin was unclear among those in attendance at the committee meeting.

District 1 Justice of the Peace Jack Deaton referred to the disparate sets of numbers at Monday’s meeting, crediting County Clerk Connie Doss for working with Ross to reconcile them.

The only dissenting vote on any of the three ordinances came from District 10 JP Larry Swofford, who questioned the amount of money allocated in the detention center budget for compensatory time.

“Have we appropriated $48,000 that’s just set aside for comp time?” Swofford asked. “… That’s saying, go ahead and build your comp time; don’t take it.”

Swofford pointed out that there are several unfilled positions at the detention center.

“There’s 30 positions in the detention center now,” he said. “… When (former sheriff Bob) Grudek was there, he was operating the detention center on 23 and a half people. We’ve got 30 now. … There’s a lot of open positions here. There’s five open positions that there’s nobody in, and there’s two unused positions, not used, set aside for comp time.”

Maj. Jerry Williams, chief deputy for the sheriff’s office, explained that state law requires the detention center to have at least four employees on hand at all times. When employees are sick or on vacation or transporting inmates outside the detention center, it is sometimes necessary to call in additional personnel. Rather than paying those additional personnel overtime, the sheriff’s office awards them compensatory time — additional time off — at a rate of time and a half. However, if the employees do not use that comp time, they are paid for it before the end of the year.

“If you don’t put that in there, at the end of the year, when you’ve reached your budget limit,” Williams said, “we will be coming to the quorum court and saying ‘there is not enough money to pay for this.’ ”

Williams said because there are unfilled positions in the detention center, there is even more of a burden to bring employees in for extra hours to meet the state requirements, thus adding to the comp time.

“No one has a crystal ball. I can’t tell you how much it’s going to be,” Williams said. “… But if it’s not there, if it’s not ready to be used, we’re going to find ourselves in a tough position where we’re holding our hand out saying we need more.”

JPs voted 10-1 in favor of approving the adjustments to the detention center budget, with Swofford voting against the proposal. The ordinances regarding the sheriff’s office and emergency dispatch budgets were approved unanimously.

The quorum court’s next meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, March 18, in the courtroom of the Carroll County Eastern District Courthouse in Berryville.

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