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Sheriff Will Ask Palm Coast to Pay for 5 More Cops, a 21% Increase of City’s Policing Budget

| April 10, 2017

Sheriff Rick Staly wants to double the traffic policing unit in Palm Coast. (© FlaglerLive)

Sheriff Rick Staly wants to double the traffic policing unit in Palm Coast. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast government’s contract with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to police the city hasn’t changed in eight years. When the last three-year contract was signed in January 2014, it was at a cost of $2.6 million a year to city taxpayers, essentially what the city has been paying since 2009

That contract called for a total of 23 cops, including 16 deputies, 5 supervisors, a commander and one school resource deputy. The contract is up at the end of September.

This time, it’s about to change, says Sheriff Rick Staly, who will be asking the city for five additional deputies in budget discussions starting soon, for a traffic unit. That represents an expense of at least $563,000, or a 21 percent increase over the current city budget for policing, a substantial hit for Palm Coast. The actual figure is likely to be higher because sheriff’s deputies won a new contract under the former Sheriff Jim Manfre that builds in annual pay increases (a combination of cost-of-living adjustments and step-raises that accrue with each year’s experience, the combination working out roughly to a 4 percent average).

The community keeps growing, with more vehicles registered, Staly said, while his department persistently gets quality-of-life complaints related to traffic. “So what I have approached the city manager in Palm Coast with is that I’m going to come to them and ask for them to fund additional traffic enforcement deputies,” Staly said. That would double the existing traffic unit.

The sheriff will almost certainly get some push-back.

Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland, fresh from a 10-hour ride-along on a shift with a sheriff’s corporal (Jon Dopp), said she understands the need for additional policing, and has just seen first-hand the demands on deputies for a lot more than what people ordinarily associate with policing: deputies, because of the lack of social and psychiatric services in the region, are frequently responsible for addressing situations involving mentally ill individuals, runaways, and waves of domestic disputes, on top of regular crime-fighting and certain civil issues.

“It’s a service we should be supplying to our residents but I also recognize the fact that we need to manage those dollars wisely and maybe phase it out over a period of time,” Holland said of the coming increase, “so maybe not all five deputies in one year, maybe two this year, two next year.” Holland added, of the request for five deputies: “It’s a big hit to our budget in one year.”

Flagler County Fire Rescue, the county’s fire department, made similar demands on county government, arguing that its ranks were too thin for the responsibility. But rather than add the needed additional firefighters in one swoop, the department has been adding them at the rate of three per year.

Per-capita policing. Click on the image for larger view. (FCSO)

Per-capita policing. Click on the image for larger view. (FCSO)

Staly will be asking for additional deputies from county government as well. The county pays for all but $1 million of the rest of the sheriff’s $26 million budget. The exact number of additional deputies he’ll be asking for is not yet clear, he said, but chances are that it may be even higher than what he’s asking from Palm Coast, if the presentation he just gave the city is any indication: that presentation portrayed Flagler County as significantly under-policed, and it portrayed Palm Coast as getting off cheap for the cost of its policing.

Palm Coast, however, may be in a stronger position to afford the cost of increased policing than the county, which has depleted its reserves because of costs related Hurricane Matthew and, so far, because the county miscalculated how much it will be reimbursed from the Federal Emergency Management Administration. Should FEMA not reimburse the county as the county expects, the county will be left with a financial crunch, making demands from constitutional officers, including the sheriff, difficult to satisfy, at least for the next year or two. County Commissioner Dave Sullivan told the sheriff as much 10 days ago as the sheriff was “arresting” Sullivan—it was part of a fund-raiser for cancer research—and Staly told the commissioner not to hold it against the sheriff at budget time. But Sullivan had just finished speaking on the radio about the almost certain budget crunch ahead.

“I’ll put in the request I think is necessary and then we’ll negotiate,” Staly said, noting that he can always appeal his budget request to the governor if it’s turned down locally. “I doubt that hat will be necessary but it’s not something I would take off the table. But I think we generally have a city council and county commission that generally prioretize public safety.”

Staly’s relations with both governments have been solid, too. But he used surprisingly strong language as he discussed his intentions going into the negotiating period ahead: just as he has sought to portray himself as a strong backer of his deputies in the field, frequently going to live crime scenes and patrolling streets on a Friday shift weekly, he appears to be taking an equally committed approach advocating for the sort of budget he thinks the department deserves.

sheriff rick staly

Sheriff Rick Staly. (© FlaglerLive)

He used equally strong language regarding Palm Coast.

According to a chart the sheriff’s office prepared, Palm Coast’s per-capita cost for policing is $33.50. In comparison, Melbourne’s is almost 10 times that, Bunnell’s and Flagler Beach’s per-capita costs are just under $270, and Fort Myers is close to $500. Those cities have their own police departments. Palm Coast does not. But for a more direct comparison, Deltona, which contracts with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office for policing, has a per-capita policing cost of $122. Deltona’s population is comparable to Palm Coast’s.

“That’s a pretty good deal,” Staly said of Palm Coast’s comparative costs. He then went on to say that while he’s heard city officials previously wish the county paid for all of Palm Coast’s policing cost (including that $2.6 million the city now pays), the county, Staly said, is under no obligation to provide any policing services to the city absent a contractual obligation.

“In a lot if counties they would tell the city where to go: you pay it,” Staly said. “Fortunately this county is not doing that.”

Palm Coast isn’t facing the sort of budget crunch the county is, but rather the usual balancing act of every budget season between priorities, needs and wishes. The council on Tuesday will discuss its mid-year budget situation, which will tie into the coming request by the sheriff, and its 10-year capital improvement plan, which does not.

Increases in the policing budget are likely. The question is by how much. “I do think the discussion is warranted and I believe we should be looking at it. I haven’t made the decision as far as how much,” Holland said, speaking as one member of the council. Tuesday’s discussion, she said, “hopefully will give me a better grasp on what we can conceivably do this year.”

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32 Responses for “Sheriff Will Ask Palm Coast to Pay for 5 More Cops, a 21% Increase of City’s Policing Budget”

  1. David S. says:

    Good Luck with that !!!!!

  2. David S. says:

    You will be lucky to just get one….

  3. Ben Hogarth says:

    Although I would consider Staly’s decision here more than warranted, imagine if Palm Coast and Flagler County had invested early on in an economic development program that expanded beyond tourism industry. The community may actually be thriving with high quality jobs and opportunity for younger generations to become professionals within the community they were raised.

    Unfortunately after years of Flagler and Palm Coast investing all of its Capital Project funding into parks and recreation, losing businesses, and tourism.. younger adults have nothing to do but get into trouble.

    Imagine if you had the actual economic drivers that brought in those businesses that drive up and not down, home values. Palm Coast and Flagler wouldn’t need all these officers.

    Should-a, Would-a, Could-a…

  4. Fredrick says:

    More Police, or sidewalks and lights????

  5. blue money says:

    how bout giving the ones that are there a raise?

  6. Heading North says:

    I truly believe the Sheriffs dept needs more manpower, a raise in pay, updated equipment, amongst other things. However, more traffic units for Palm Coast I question. The contract between the city and the Department calls for the Sheriff to provide “all law enforcement related services” much the same as Volusia County Sheriffs contract with Deltona and Debary. The FHP advised the Sheriff (Ben Johnsona at the time I believe) that due to them having a contract and receiving monetary compensation, the Highway Patrol would no longer respond to crashes in those covered cities. The Highway Patrrol has not responded since as far as I know.
    Question is, why add more traffic units when every time a crash occurs with personal injury or worse in the City of Palm Coast, the first thing the Sheriff does is call for a State Trooper to respond from wherever he may be to the City, who by contract is paying the Sheriff for “all law enforcement related services” .
    If crash investigation isn’t law enforcement related, I must be way off the mark.. Just saying……..

  7. Yourstruly says:

    I pay taxes in this stupid City!!! Use that money and creates Police Department you fools!! Enough bureaucratic red tape

  8. Peter A. Cerreta says:

    More people equals more services, simple logic. Traffic is a problem at different times of the day. Unfortunately, l have seen reckless drivers weaving in and out of traffic- perhaps our sheriff is right and safety should be up there in prioritising expenditures. Our mayor, is cautious, wanting to ease into increasing our police force. Caution is a good thing and giving due thought regarding the financial burden for our taxpayers is also a good thing. However, our city counsel had little hesitation giving a large raise including perks and contractual yearly increases to the city manager. Perhaps, recklessness is not limited to our traffic issue.

  9. Lazaruis says:

    I would think the sheriff’s dept would run at a surplus to the taxpayers considering how many tickets they write up !

  10. Dave says:

    Oh yea ,just what we really need in this city,more cops. The people of this city have so many obvious safety issues and other real concerns. Please no more cops,it’s enough already,help the people of this city.

  11. Informed says:

    Instead of setting radar up on SR 100 between I95 and the beach with tons of patrol cars, why doesn’t he pull a couple just to drive up and down that killing field called Palm Coast Parkway everyday, so people will pay attention to what they are doing. Oh wait, I’m sorry, that might cost him some votes next time. Instead of them using to do nothing at all. I kid you not there was a deputy with radar wearing a Leprechaun suit standing out on 100 on St Patricks Day.

  12. Charles F. Ericksen, Jr says:

    If you check the annual charges , that Palm Coast has paid, previous to this time, It was far less than the actual cost of those services ..The County , and the other municipalities , were paying not only their costs, but a good share of Palm Coast’s, need for their requested upgraded services …
    AND,,, to Mr. or Mrs, “Heading North” , the FCSO is required to contact the State anytime, there is a State road incident.. This includes, I-95 , US1, SR100, and any accident involving a death ..Generally, Flagler County has regular State Police patrols during the day. Just look for and beware of “Pete”in the big, Black and Gold Ford SUV …He’s out there

  13. Flatsflyer says:

    How about posting the salary and overtime of all current employees? Many would be shocked by the total compensation? Take a look at the benefits they get, nobody except government employees get a pension and medical benefits. The Union has LIED for years about how dangerous the job is, LEO’s don’t make the top ten (10) for dangerous positions, same for firemen?

  14. Shark says:

    I guess they need more enforcement on Florida Park – or is because they are building a new Dunkin Donuts

  15. Bill harvey says:

    From what I have seen COPS do a lot of traffic accidents , and are throughout all the shopping centers issuing parking tickets and anything more serious the troopers handle it so that being said I would assume that would free up some deputies, like Bill O’Reilly would say where am I going wrong

  16. no says:

    What kind of high quality jobs are there in small cities. None. Unless you have a major city that is overpopulated like Miami and Jacksonville. Do they want That? No.

  17. Michael says:

    The reason we left Palm Coast after 20 plus years is what it has become, worse where we saw it heading. None of the leader have any vision beyond a small town with no jobs. The crime rate is up because of that simple fact,. The cheaper the hosing due to no jobs, the worse the element that moves in. Who can raise a family on what Walmart pays, yet the city leaders are all about those type of businesses coming to town. Residents use about a $140-50 for every tax dollar paid (Police, fire, public works) Industry only uses about 45-50 cents on that same dollar. You do not have to be an economist to see how that works, no industry and the entire tax burden falls on the home owners.

  18. Bc. says:

    Palm coast needs its own police department

  19. George says:

    Citizens come up with “clever” names like “Palm Compton” and complain there is too much crime, but when the Sheriff tries to add more police to compensate for a quickly growing population (and a crime rate to scale with that), they complain and say, “Good luck with that, we don’t have money for that, what a waste of resources.”

    …You can’t have it both ways.

  20. BlueJammers says:

    I’m 100% in favor of more police officers.

  21. r&r says:

    Put up electric fences and make the R section a gated community and you may not the extra cops.

  22. Andrew Wheeler says:

    We can take so officers off the highway and put them on Florida park then we won’t need more or put some in the bad area of palm coast.

  23. r&r says:

    I’m getting tired of the whiners on Florida Drive. I’ll repeat what I said in the past. I travel that street and one day as I was driving the speed limit I was passed by a car going 25 -30 miles an hour faster and a couple blocks up the road the garage door opened and the car went in.

  24. Gkimp says:

    The City has grown to the point of is cost prohibitive to start a police department, the time to do that would have been 20 to 30 thousand residents then grow with the population. Start up cost would be 10s of millions of dollars at this point. A city this size would require between 80-100 sworn officers and at least 10-15 support personnel. I support this increase in manpower because criminals seek the path of least resistance, we need agressive, but professional policing to resist becoming like neighboring communities.

  25. Howard Duley says:

    What a waste of money. The cops don’t do anything now. Why add 5 more just to do nothing.
    We have a mayor and manager to do nothing now so we don’t need any more cops to help
    do nothing.

  26. RobJr says:

    Heck no Palm Coast does not need its own police department. You want to see your taxes rise like a hot air balloon? This city already has too many people in this city government who are over paid. And every year the police department budget will go up. The politics of fear will come into play.
    “Oh the police department needs more money, crime is rising, terrorists are knocking at the door, immigrants are “stealing” our jobs” .

  27. Eric says:

    I think more deputies would be a great thing….also, for all the people who comment in most of these articles with all the negativity (also making it clear to other readers that you no longer live here and are glad you moved), my question to you is this….Why do you care what goes on here? Worry about where you live now, since its sooooo much better.

  28. Mark says:

    I got it. Take some money out of Landon’s paycheck!

  29. RigidPrinciples says:

    Can at least one please be an unmarked car…so that something can be done about the slow left drivers and tailgaters?

  30. NumbersGuy says:

    From a quick look at the graph in this article, and knowing how bad we, as a City, lack lighting and sidewalks, I’m really not sure where my property tax dollars go – I mean I know what agencies they go to – but what are they buying in our City?? Honestly, what good are they doing for our City?? I like landscaping, but really? We have so much of it that our City can’t even maintain it all. The landscaping is all I see, that and new buildings used by elected officials, and elected officials paychecks. We have the most pathetic expenditure on police, and I’d like to guess the same for fire and first responders. You can’t build a safe city out of playing cards people!!!! Sad honestly. The People are being left behind here, and that’s pretty clear.

  31. Thomas says:

    With all the thugs that have moved into Palm Coast, more Deputies are definitely needed.

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