Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly is requesting from the County Commission an 12.2 percent budget increase from the county’s general fund in the 2023-24 budget. That would include funding for five new deputies, increasing retirement costs, union-negotiated pay increases and a 5.3 percent across-the-board cost of living pay increase reflecting the steeper inflation rate of the past year.
The sheriff’s budget in total would increase from $44.5 million to $49.7 million, or 11.6 percent. Those figures include the projected $8.6 million policing contract with Palm Coast, which would increase by $748,000, and $3 million in revenue from the county’s half-cent sales surtax. The county’s general fund appropriation would increase from $33.6 million to $37.7 million, a $4.1 million increase.
The Sheriff’s portion of the budget is by far the largest of the five constitutional officers’ budgets in the county, four of which are funded mostly by revenue administered by the County Commission. The Supervisor of Elections, the Property Appraiser and the Clerk of Court also submitted budgets. The Tax Collector. County commissioners received the budget packages on Friday.
“Since the Tax Collector is fee-based, no budget is included for review,” Brian Eichinger, the county’s manager of the county’s budget office, wrote commissioners. “The funding the Tax Collector receives from the BOCC is commission-based, tied to the amount of property taxes collected in a fiscal year.”
All constitutional budgets reflect the same 5.3 percent cost of living increase and higher retirement costs.
The budget request, Staly wrote County Commission Chairman Greg Hansen in his submittal letter last month, “reflects the funding necessary to maintain the existing service levels for the Sheriffs Office to provide basic countywide Law Enforcement, Detention and Bailiff services.” The jail’s budget would increase by $1.1 million, reflecting an increase in the average daily population to more than 275, up from 238 a year ago. The sheriff expects the jail population to average 300 in the coming year.
“You may recall during last [year’s] budget negotiations, I forwent my request for these deputies to handle the impact of Flagler County being the 3rd fastest growing county in Florida to focus on retaining and attracting employees and to be wage competitive with neighboring counties,” Staly wrote. “The addition of 5 Deputies next year is necessary to ensure an adequate staffing level is available to meet ever increasing calls for service and to prevent current service levels from being diluted by the unprecedented growth occurring in Flagler County.” (The county in fact grew at a faster pace in the two years just before the 2007 housing crash, when Flagler was the fastest-growing in the nation. It grew 53 percent in five years.)
The sheriff is also requesting a budget transfer of $1.17 million from the county to the sheriff’s budget in IT services. “This re-allocation of existing funds allows better transparency to the community and the BOCC on the true cost of public safety services being provided,” he wrote.
The letter highlights the nearly 24,000 hours of volunteer hours logged by sheriff’s volunteers last budget year, equating to an $800,000 saving, a $100,000 value generated by inmate work crews, and the 54 percent crime-inde reduction since 2016, along with a “culture of innovation.”
The Supervisor of Elections’ budget is projected to increase by 30 percent, proportionately more than double the sheriff’s proposal, but from a much smaller base: the supervisor’s budget would increase $631,000, from an existing budget of $2.1 million.
Aside from cost of living and retirement costs, nearly 40 percent of the increase is due to the presidential election year which has already started. Such an election year increases election worker salaries ($244,000), ballot costs ($229,000) and a considerable amount of office supplies, like seals, that other offices don’t incur ($98,000).
“As of today, we have 98,252 registered voters,” Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart wrote commissioners. “That’s an increase of over 5,100 since I submitted my proposed budget to you in May of last year. At this rate, I expect Flagler County to be well over 100,000 registered voters by the 2024 General Election. This budget includes a request for one additional full-time employee (a total of 11 FTE’s). The Elections Office is the smallest Constitutional Office in Flagler County, and also has the least number of staff members compared to counties of similar size: Citrus, Martin, Sumter, and Indian River. We serve every citizen in Flagler County with our small staff, and it is time to prepare now for our next Presidential election cycle.
The Clerk of Court is funded partly by the county, partly by the state. Its county portion, drawn from the general revenue, would increase from $2.6 million to $3 million, a 17 percent increase. That would be offset by anticipated Clerk of Court revenue of nearly $900,000 ($321,000 less than last year, when the Sheriff’s Office was paying to use space at the courthouse), reducing the overall budget increase to 3.3 percent.
The property appraiser’s budget would increase by 2.5 percent, from $3.17 million to $3.25 million, wit decreases in personnel expenses.
The County Commission holds a 9 a.m. workshop Monday at the Government Services Building, 1769 East Moody Boulevard, Bunnell, to discuss the budget proposals. It does not approve the budget until September. Palm Coast has yet to discuss the sheriff’s request.