Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly will ask for 10 additional deputies this year–five from the county, five from Palm Coast–and is asking both agencies to maximize law enforcement budget increases focused on raising starting deputies’ pay to keep the Sheriff’s Office competitive with surrounding agencies.
Palm Coast is limited to a maximum of 5 percent in pay increases, however, shifting a sizable portion of the pay increase the sheriff is asking for to the county. (Adding personnel is different than increasing pay as far as calculating the budget is concerned.)
The sheriff is asking for an additional five deputies for Palm Coast, to keep up with growth, he said–and maintain a resident-approval rating that consistently ranges between 80 and 90 percent, according to the city’s biennial surveys.
Last year, in the largest budget increase to date, the sheriff requested 10 additional deputies from the city and 15 from the county, part of a midrange plan to eliminate a deficit in law enforcement services. The sheriff is projecting that the deficit will be wiped out by 2025 if hiring continues apace, he told the Palm Coast City Council this morning at a workshop. He said there is increasing interest at the county to merge its sheriff’s budgeting with that of Palm Coast at least in such a way as to provide for a continuing resolution to increase sheriff’s staffing and balance both governments’ budgets in that regard.
From the city’s side, there is increasing appetite for an idea by Mayor David Alfin: to shift law enforcement budgeting to an impact fee-like structure starting a year from now. In other words, use impact fees–the one time levies on new development that defray the cost of roads, schools, fire departments, parks–to also pay for policing services: the more development there is, the more fees underwrite the law enforcement budget. The less development there is, the less money there would be to increase budgets.
Alfin said he wasn’t interested in deciding how many bullets and cars the sheriff needs, but he was interested in structuring the budget so that it was less dependent on annual wrangling. “I think that’s the way of the future quite honestly,” Alfin said. “I would like to see the budget determined by this fee structure so that the sheriff knows what he has to work for, what he can plan with, and how he can allocate those funds against the resources that he has the expertise to determine.”
Staly was receptive, as were other council members. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office, where Staly spent his career before Flagler, was either the first or among the first law enforcement agencies in the state to have such an impact fee. It would not cover all costs: the general fund, drawn from property taxes, would still shoulder its share. But it would presumably lessen the pressure on the general fund.
“So, for example, of the five deputies that I’ve asked for, in today’s model, the city of Palm Coast has to pay for the uniforms, their bullets, their car, their radio, the salary, everything,” Staly said. “In an impact fee model, you pay for their salary, but all the equipment–and that car and all the equipment in it today is about $80,000–that can be paid out of impact fees. And so to me, that’s growth maybe not paying totally for itself but certainly paying its share for the impact that growth has, so the burden is not off the residents that are currently here.”
The building and real estate communities, however, tend to push back against impact fees, as was recently the case when the school board requested a substantial increase in its own impact fees, which were first instituted in 2005 and had not been increased since.
Staly this morning submitted his request to the council more as a courtesy than a begging ask, knowing that–between his political capital, his crime-reduction record in six years as sheriff, his rising state profile and his continuing ability, after six years, to avoid scandals as his predecessors could not–he is almost assured of getting whatever he asks for.
Council members all but fell all over themselves to let him know so as he completed his presentation. “Unless I can’t, there’s nothing, if it’s legal and ethical, that I wouldn’t do for your department,” Council member Eddie Branquinho said. “I fully support your department and all the great work that you’re doing,” Council member Ed Danko echoed. “It is of paramount importance that we have what we need to keep everybody safe,” Council member John Fanelli said. All three liked the impact fee route, while the council for this year offered no resistance to the sheriff’s continuing expansion of the agency.
It’s come at a cost: the Sheriff’s Office’s budget is increasing rapidly, too, and now stands at $38.3 million. Palm Coast accounts for $5.7 million of that, not including jail costs–$8.1 million–which the county budget shoulders entirely, even though the majority of jail inmates have a Palm Coast address and commit their crimes in Palm Coast. The jail averages some 260 inmates a day, a higher rate than during the Covid years, when it dropped “well below” 200.
“The priorities for our community since I’ve been sheriff is to preserve the peace and quality of life and to prevent crime and arrest offenders, and you got a good taste and feel for that yesterday,” he said, referring to the arrest of 18-year-old Sterling Orlando Davis-Jones of Jacksonville Monday morning in Palm Coast’s P Section, after Davis-Jones allegedly car-jacked a street-sweeper in Daytona Beach. The arresting deputy got six stitches as a result of the chase, but was back at work today. “The harassment from the squad is probably worse than the injury,” Staly said.
He said crime is down 52 percent since he became sheriff. Total crime is “at an all-time low,” he said, though vehicle crashes are up: “We still can’t drive.” Calls for service have increased “dramatically,” he said, with total calls for service up to 115,000 last year, with a projection of 118,000 for this year, half of them placed to 911. That’s the equivalent of 323 calls a day, or more than a dozen calls an hour.
The zones with the highest number of calls? The Hammock, up to Marineland, and Cypress Knolls. Daytona North, or the Mondex, is reputed to be Flagler County’s wild west, its crimes drawing particular attention for their sometimes more unusual character. In fact, the Mondex is among the sectors that draws the fewest number of calls, though other western Flagler sectors draw more.
The county’s population keeps growing, and Palm Coast’s population is approaching 100,000 at a rapid clip.
As he has in the past, Staly pointed out what he considers to be a policing bargain for Palm Coast, when compared to Deltona, which also contracts with its sheriff for law enforcement. But he said the ratio of officers per 1,000 residents remains in his view–based on a study his office commissioned from the University of North Florida–at a deficit, though the department has been catching up. “Because between the city of Palm Coast and the Board of County Commissioners, of those deficit deputies that were identified in 2018, and this study wasn’t done until 2019, all but three of those have been hired. So we went from 31 deficit to only three.”
But keeping up with salaries is again a challenge.
Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies start at a salary of just under $40,000 a year. They generally get up to $43,000 with overtime, because of their 12-hour shifts. The Daytona Beach Police Department is raising its annual starting salary to $51,000 in October, and the Florida Highway Patrol is raising its starting pay to $50,000 after a significant increase from the Legislature. The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office starts its deputies at $50,000, and Volusia starts its deputies to $48,000.
“So the focus of my budget with the Board of County Commissioners is some staffing,” Staly said, “but it is really salaries because I’m no longer competitive. And I want to continue to be able to track the type of employee that we want. And, I also don’t want to be the training ground for other agencies. In the last 18 months I’ve lost 20 employees. All of this occurred in the last year because I had the highest starting pay 18 months ago.”
Palm Coast has a pay-increase cap of 5 percent. Staly cited inflation numbers now at 8.6 percent, gas approaching the $5 a gallon rate even though the budget was set on a $2.75-a-gallon rate, and increasing retirement and insurance costs. He said just to stay even, the budget should increase 13 percent. “So what’s going to frankly have to happen is–assuming that you approve the contract–the 5 percent will offset what the county is going to have to put in to balance out, quite frankly, because I can’t be competitive.”
Pissed in PC says
Alfin keeps wanting growth but he’s yet to do any studies on infrastructure, emergency services, schools and road improvements that would provide a better estimate into planning for the future through impact fees. These developers need to quit the bitching about impact fees on their developments. If people can afford the high prices they’re charging for homes then raising the impact fee for the future of the city services should be a necessity as this will cause an increase in our property taxes if the fee isn’t raised. Any good mayor and council would have a study done or even the current amount spent should have a 5-10% automatic increase for each year built in. But as usual we have incompetent city government. Tik tok mayor and council.
FlaglerLive, why does no one ask for a public records request to see all the actually yearly earnings of all Sheriff employees? I believe we would be shocked! Many deputies are making 2x the average Flagler County citizen salary.
Lets get rid of this clown – Just spent over $200.000 for a new Boston Whaler. We don’t need five or six deputies at a minor accident.
David Schaefer says
Agree it’s like living in Orlando and BTW get rid of the rich mayor while your at it he is useless.
Dennis C Rathsam says
This is rich!!!! We need more new sheriffs, WHY????? Because STUFF EM IN ALVIN, a realtor, is now our mayor! Soon our tree city, will become an aspault jungle. Small house,s Mc Manions, apartments….STUFF EM IN ALVIN loves it! Traffic sucks all over town, & now the school buses are gone, youd think it would ease up. Hell No! Traffic lights are out of sinc, more folks moving in, cars & dump trucks are everywhere. The streets are crumbing under thier weight. What once was a great place to live & retire is now dying. Progress is destroying PALM COAST!
Boy you hit the nail on the head. Yes, the problem is Alfin. He turned our beautiful city into a traffic riddled inner city.
The city could learn from other cities that have invested in Traffic Calming Methods in residential neighborhoods to control volume of traffic and speeding; this will free up patrol cars from having to spend time doing traffic management in residential neighborhoods. As traffic increases on more residential streets more Sheriff Patrols will be required to keep residential streets safe. Question is, Can we hire enough duties to do traffic management in the growing residential neighborhoods?
Here they go again with that circular real estate driven growth model… this time with an “impact fee” twist.
The town council just gave this guy 10, a policing budget increase of 42%
Now he wants 5 more ?
Many politicians use the politics of fear for gain.
It seems that getting salaries inline for deputies should be of the highest priority. We want to keep deputies from moving to other counties for better pay. The training only for new deputies would surely be more than the cost of getting a competitive salaries.
More deputies helping to keep the community safe makes sense to me.
Less deputies , and less pay . Please stop over policing our state and County.
Until they go to your house.
Give him his Deputies you all are going to need it
Staley wants to build an empire here on the backs of Palm Coasts tax payers. When is enough enough? Stop the uncontrolled population growth.
Big difference between working in Daytona Beach and with the Highway Patrol. Flagler County is a cake walk compared to them.
Using Staley’s nonsensical crime stats homicides are up 800% and the murder of children in this county is up 1000% since he took office. When does the nonsense stop in his head with appetite for consuming every resource in the county and the expensive everything and everyone else.
Sometimes I think reading the comments people make on FlaglerLive is more ike a study of psychological behavior. Most of the comments on the article outlining the arrests of 3 of 4 murder suspects the sheriff’s office just arrested talk about how the gang wannabes are taking over, and getting tougher on these street thugs. Then, when another article is posted saying the sheriff went before the city council to discuss funding for more deputies to keep our communities safe, the commenters to wild! Calling the sheriff names, wanting to actually CUT his staff and the law enforcement funding, etc. I’m beginning to believe that some people just want to be contrary no matter what the issue is, and just complain about everything. They must have a lot of time on their hands, or are disgruntled and not enjoying life I guess.
Please don’t take this the wrong way… but if you live here long enough, it’ll get to you too. Believe me.
Can’t rely on real estate growth alone and you can’t hope high paying jobs will move here… at some point you have to face reality. You had to build and maximize retail sales tax income… too late now in my opinion.
All these folks sitting on the city council throughout the years should have really tried to maximize the sales tax returns from the few big name businesses that moved here. Their locations are poorly situated in my opinion. You need to market them to “out of county” travelers on I-95, not just the locals. Perhaps a centralized “retail zone” with its own dedicated on and off ramps to I-95, with the large retailers grouped right in sight of passing motorists on the interstate. Take this new B.J.’s, for every local dollar spent there, if located right off I-95 the city/county might catch $10 from passing motorists who might not have known it even existed otherwise.
“Food Truck Tuesdays” in the park?… Where’s that? “Food Trucks Wednesday” off I-95?… Sounds more profitable to me.
If we ever got a COSTCO they should put it right out there off I-95… with neon signage! Just my opinion.
Come to think of it… “Food Trucks & Trucks Fridays off I-95” sounds even more profitable. If it was hosted in a Lowe’s (or Walmart) parking lot that had been situated with direct access both in from, and out to, I-95.
Might have solved some of the local traffic problems AND reduced emissions pollution. Take Lowe’s for example… say one is coming off I-95 traveling south to get to Lowes. You turn left, battling (local) traffic to only turn left at a very conjested intersection, then again at another… you then travel down a LONG access road to finally get to your destination. Then when leaving you have to double back… talk about waste (time, gas, etc.)… nothing you can do now, right. Just build more houses and hope for the best.
Just my opinion… too little, too late I suppose.
Wait, WHAT ? 10 more deputies…… Increased pay for ALL the deputies….. Its like watching the 6:00 Nightly News about all the crime in New York, Chicago, L.A., Baltimore, D.C…….. I never realized our quiet little community has turned into “Ghetto Coast”.
By this time next summer this place will look like southside of Chicago run by the badist man in the whole damn town, Leroy Brown. He got a .32 gun in his pocket for fun and a razor in his shoe.
How a bout a salary raise for all Florida workers? This place Has become worse than California. Inflation all around us yet the wages are lowest in the country and and federal minimum wage hasn’t moved. FLORIDA IS NOW MORE EXPENSIVE TO LIVE PER HOUSEHOLD INCOME THAN CALIFORNIA
Would it not be nice for a Flagler politician to say it is time to cut the fat from the budget. Staley cut the fat no more tanks, boats, Motor homes quit spending thousand to have deputies sitting under trees talking about how you are the problem. Same way with the county and city cut the budget quit adding more expense. Everyone of the taxpayers of this county are cutting there budgets due to the economy. Do the same!
We’re all for good pay and benefits for our deputies. But let’s not forget that resources are finite. If you raise pay, something else won’t be funded. Or our tax burden, already high will go higher.
Hopefully our elected officials spend wisely. Personally I would rather do police pay than pedestrian bridges to nowhere.