Sheriff’s Budget: Few New Deputies, No Raises, More Bottled Water and Drug Money
FlaglerLive | July 14, 2010
Even the drugs the Flagler County Sheriff’s detectives are buying are more expensive.
A county commissioner noticed the line item in the sheriff’s proposed budget for the coming year, which Sheriff Don Fleming submitted to the commission on Tuesday. It was listed as the sheriff’s “investigative fund,” and it was going up, from $9,000 this year to $12,000 next year. “That’s undercover confidential money that’s used to purchase drugs or whatever,” Linda Bolante, the sheriff’s finance director, explained to titters. And not only drugs: If detectives are working on a burglary and need to buy property to peddle as part of their investigation, they use money out of that fund.
That was about the most revealing item in a surprisingly routine budget Fleming proposed, to a grateful commission. Commissioners asked each of the county’s constitutional officers to turn in budgets that either require less money or the same as they were spending this year. The sheriff obliged. The $22.6 million budget appears close to what it has been for the current year, paying the salaries of the same number of employees—279, or 248 full time and 31 part-time.
There may be some personnel fluctuations within the sheriff’s various divisions–deputies on patrol, guards at the county jail, bailiffs at the courthouse or emergency operators at the county’s Emergency Operations Center—but there are no salary increases. The sheriff is currently renegotiating a three-year contract with the police union to bring down some insurance costs in order to stay within budget.
There’s a slight fudging of the numbers between what’s presented on paper and what’s happening in reality. For example, when all salaries and benefits are added up, there’s an $800,000 increase between the $17.5 million in salaries and benefits this year and the $18.3 million projected for next year. The reason: six of those 279 positions were vacant this year. They’ll be filled next year, and most likely be part of the Palm Coast contingent. About $3 million of the budget is the amount Palm Coast contracts for law enforcement (the city is paying $2.6 million currently). Health insurance and retirement costs are also increasing significantly.
The sheriff is cutting his budget for uniforms by $20,000 (to $90,540), and cutting his fuel budget by more than $100,000, to $580,000. “We’re taking a gamble that we’re going to cut it by $100,000 this year,” Fleming said. The estimate is based on fuel bills of $45,000 a month and a per gallon cost of $2.65 per gallon.
Another kind of liquid cost caught Commissioner Barbara Revels’ attention: bottled water. Those costs are increasing from 12,200 this year to $14,800 next year. “I just have a real problem with all the bottled waters we put into landfills,” Revels said, “and when we have a building such as the inmate facility or communications where people are actually working every day in a building, why do we pay for bottled water?” There was a partial explanation: some water needs to be stored at the emergency operations center and at the jail in case of weather emergencies for one or, because the jail is located in Bunnell, because of Bunnell’s frequently fouled water supply in the other. Three times in the past three months Bunnell water customers were under caution to boil their water. The jail has to have ready, clean water to serve.
Revels pressed the case: “As a general operating rule, 10 years ago we were operating without buying bunches of bottles of water for day-to-day stuff, and I just think that environmentally we need to not do it whenever possible.”
Jail inmates will also come in for some cost cutting: their health care budget is being cut by $10,000, from $128,000 to $118,000. It’s not clear how, as the sheriff isn’t projecting a sudden decrease in the jail’s population. See more detailed breakdowns of key costs in the chart below.
For the sheriff, who makes himself scarce in public meetings, it was a rare appearance before the County Commission. “As I always like to say, we seem to be doing more with less in the last few years that we’ve done,” he said, by way of a sum-up. “I started a crime suppression team, haven’t announced it yet because we had a couple of very sensitive cases going on. They just made an arrest with some ATM machines that were being stolen. It’s really skyrocketing. That recovered about $325,000 in stolen goods. We have a storage bin where we solved about 20 burglaries where we’re looking at about $30,000 in stolen TVs and property that we’re working on. So I just wanted to pat the people on the back to do the job every day. They do a wonderful job out there with what they have to work with.”
Sheriff's Budget Highlights
|Salaries and benefits||17,490,039||18,309,624|
|Overtime and incentives||816,464||812,746|
|Fuel and lubricants||687,167||580,500|
|Auto repairs and boat maintenance||129,600||129,600|
|Prisoner health care||128,000||118,000|
|Awards and medals||8,200||8,200|