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Sheriff’s Budget: Few New Deputies, No Raises, More Bottled Water and Drug Money

| July 14, 2010

The ranks won't be growing this year, or getting better pay. (© FlaglerLive)

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

2010-2011 Budget
Salaries and benefits17,490,03918,309,624
Overtime and incentives816,464812,746
Fuel and lubricants687,167580,500
Office supplies60,72361,473
Investigative fund9,00012,000
Building leases147,000147,000
Auto repairs and boat maintenance129,600129,600
Prisoner health care128,000118,000
Prisoner transportation20,00020,000
Bottled water12,20014,800
Awards and medals8,2008,200
Source: Flagler County Sheriff's Office
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8 Responses for “Sheriff’s Budget: Few New Deputies, No Raises, More Bottled Water and Drug Money”

  1. eileen says:

    Amazing! Many Americans cannot afford health insurance but our inmates have health care. Something is wrong with that picture.

  2. Patti Powell says:

    I agree with Ms Revels, we do NOT need bottled water for jail inmates. We can put water into gallon jugs or Boil it if needed. I have about 3 bottles which I rinse and refill from my faucet in order to not continue buying bottled water. I use a reusable cup for my coffee when I buy it out and I try to conserve. This throw away society is getting ridiculous.

  3. Pierre Tristam says:

    Eileen, this is not health care as it’s presumed in the world of care–as in seeing a doctor at the drop of pulse and getting a scan a month. It’s basic, minimal medicinal needs for the thousands of inmates who come through the facility in the course of a year. Look at the amount: it’s piddly compared to the unfortunately high number of inmates who go through there.

  4. Charlie says:

    A good amount of the ” medical care”, is alcohol/drug related, meaning a few days in the mental health facility on the same road as the County jail, allowing them to dry out or get prepared for Court appearances.. There are additional fees,/expenses to the County ,including the “Drug Court”, and others ,that are on top of the Sheriff’s budget.

  5. H Peter Stolz says:

    OK so let’s all look the poor sheriff’s budget. And let’s make sure we pick on the really really big items. That’s what you’d ecpect of an oversight body at budget times. So where’s the concern? A really huge item – bottled water ($14,400) – never mind the $18.3 MILLION for salaries and benefits – to concentrate on .
    What choice does the sheriff have about the bottled water? After all Bunnel’s water aparently isn’t reliable. (Makes you wonder who buys the bottled water for all the residents in Bunnel.) Or maybe the bored of County Commissioners could concentrate on the $ 8,200 for awards and medals – never mind the $18.3 MILLION for salaries and benefits. And then of course there is the other “biggie” – the sheriff’s investigative fund – huge at $12,000 but it kind of shrinks into oblivion compared to over $18.3 MILLION for salaries and benefits.
    Politicians amaze me. The Flagler commission’s overpaid members focus on the irrelevant, but just nod at expenditures in excess of $18 MILLION with nary a concern.

  6. eileen says:

    “basic, medicinal needs” I’d settle for that. Heck, I’d PAY for that!

  7. Mike says:

    So, Peter, are you advocating that perhaps we should cut police officer’s salaries and benefits? Perhaps we should have them risk their lives for minimum wage? Would this make you nod your head in approval? Maybe what we should do is give them an “atta boy” for a free cup of coffee and a nickel allowance. Seriously, for doing what they do, risking their lives for your safety, they do not get paid enough. And please spell check before posting. I believe you meant “board,” not “bored,” which is how I feel after reading your post.

  8. Tired Taxpayer says:

    Maybe Fleming should take some tips from retired Volusia Sheriff Bob Vogel. Many years ago Vogel funded his department almost entirely with confiscated drug money. The ACLU hated it, but the taxpayers loved it. Why can’t the Sheriff’s Office bottle their own water? The most bottled water comes from a regular tap anyway!

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