Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly and the Police Benevolent Association, the union representing deputies, are organizing a show of force that would pack the county commission’s chambers this evening in hopes of swaying commissioners to give the sheriff more than the additional $4.45 million they are so far providing for next year’s budget.
“I will be presenting my budget request to the County Commissioners and I believe they will vote to direct the County Administrator on what to do,” the sheriff wrote all deputies and staffers at the agency by email on Friday morning. “YOU NEED TO BE THERE along with your friends and family. The Commissioners need to understand the community supports your raises. (They recently and quietly gave to their firefighters so they need to treat our employees like they did their firefighters).”
He told deputies and staffers that they would have to attend “on their own time.” He added: “In the past 5-years I have always been able to negotiate a budget without asking you to get involved but this year it is a stalemate. If this fails my only option is to appeal to the Governor and Cabinet, which I will do.”
The sheriff is requesting an additional five deputies, focusing more this year on raising wages of existing deputies, especially starting pay. The starting pay for a deputy sheriff if just over $46,000, some $5,000 less than for a starting firefighter.
“The sheriff wants more money than is available in the budget and he’s trying to press his issue,” Commissioner Dave Sullivan said. He was aware of the evening’s show of force, but said if it was intended to intimidate commissioners, it would not work–“not with me,” he said.
A decision is not expected tonight: the county has scheduled a budget workshop on Aug. 24, purposely a day after the primary election, to remove as much of the political element from the equation as possible. Two commissioners are running for re-election: Greg Hansen and Joe Mullins. The Hansen race (against Janet McDonald and Denise Calderwood) will be settled on Aug. 23, because the three Republicans are the only candidates running, making their primary an open one: all voters, regardless of party affiliation, get to vote, and the winner will be the next commissioner regardless. That’s not the case in the Mullins race. The embattled commissioner faces a Republican opponent in the primary (Leann Pennington), but that race’s winner faces an independent in the general election in November (Jane Gentile-Youd).
Still, the commission will vote on the budget before the next swearing-in of commissioners in November, should seats turn over at all. Some commissioners–namely, Mullins, who has been caught on video threatening the job of a law enforcement officer, who has falsely claimed he had the support of two local retired police associations, and who told yet another trooper that “I run the county“–cannot afford to look like anything less but the sheriff’s vassals at this point, guaranteeing their vote whatever the sheriff were to ask. (Mullins in the last few days flashed himself on Facebook with his portrait as if haloed by a sheriff’s badge, alongside paroxysms of puffery for anything in uniform, plus a picture of himself with Staly. Mullins had seemingly ignored a statement the sheriff released a day earlier disavowing candidates’ attempts to glum on to him or pretend they have his support by showing pictures of themselves in his vicinity.)
The county funds all constitutional officers’ budgets, requiring each officer–the sheriff, the clerk of court, the tax collector, the property appraiser, the supervisor of elections–to submit a budget request annually. The county commission negotiates with each constitutional officer to get to a final number. It is often routine, or limited to give and take on the margins, making this year’s stalemate unusual. When the two sides reach an impasse, Florida law provides for an avenue of appeal. Constitutional officers can make their case to the Florida Cabinet or the governor, though that’s very rare, and talk of it is generally tactical.
The difference in budget numbers between the sheriff and the county is “part of the discussion and some of that will come out tonight but it’s fairly significant,” Sullivan said. “He is getting over $6 million more essentially than last year, and that doesn’t include things like the Sheriff’s Operations Center and a lot of other things. But he’s making his case and he has the right to do that.”
Chief Mark Strobridge, who handles budget negotiations, said “they’re not offering us a $6 million increase.”
According to the sheriff’s numbers, the 2022 budget was $38.3 million, including $5.7 million from Palm Coast and $8.12 million for the jail. At a May meeting, the county presented a “base budget” for the Sheriff’s Office of $28.5 million, excluding the Palm Coast contract or $3 million from a sales surtax that funds the jail. The sheriff was asking for $32.2 million. The county was prepared to provide $34.2 million, leaving a difference of $2 million. (See those numbers here.)
The numbers were revised in light of better-than-expected revenue projections, due to increasing property values and the commission’s decision to keep the property tax rate flat, which would yield a substantial increase in tax revenue. In July, the county listed a total, current adopted budget of $31.5 million, and a tentative 2022-23 budget of $35.9 million, an increase of $4.45 million. (See those numbers here.)
The figures do not include construction costs for the new Sheriff’s Operations Center.
In an email of his own to sheriff’s staffers, Strobridge said that “County Administration is fighting Sheriff Staly in giving pay raises to the men and women of FCSO.”
Sullivan disputes that claim, too, saying the sheriff is personalizing the issue. That’s not how it works, Sullivan said. “We don’t tell him how to spend his money individually,” Sullivan said. “What we can say is: this is the maximum amount of money we can provide right now, it’s up to you where you put your money. We have to be very careful about the Board of County Commissioners being forced into–this piece of money goes into this budget, that piece of money goes into his budget.” In other words, the sheriff can award raises to deputies with the lion’s share of the money, foregoing other items for now. Overall, Sullivan said the sheriff would get upwards of a 15 percent increase in his budget, close to double above inflation, which has itself been complicating budget matters significantly.
“Inflation puts extreme pressure on the budget, we’ve already decided we’re not going to increase the millage rate, so anything less than that, it’s just hard,” Sullivan said. There are further complications: the sheriff, Sullivan said, is leaving the county’s health plan to rely on a separate plan, and will also have an IT department independent of the county’s, which had previously provided IT services to the Sheriff’s Office (and to Flagler Beach).
“County Administration is fighting Sheriff Staly, claiming they don’t have the money, which we know is false. It’s all about setting priorities,” Strobridge’s email reads. “All the Sheriff is asking is for the County Commissioners to treat our Deputy Sheriff’s as fairly as they just treated their fire fighters/paramedics. Just a few weeks ago the Commissioners quietly gave them a pay raise retro-active to last October. The starting pay for a Flagler County Firefighter/Paramedic is now just over $51,000.00. The current starting pay for a Deputy Sheriff is just over $46,000.00.”
Staly in his presentation to the commission tonight will highlight the halving of the crime rate on his watch, the increase in calls for service (and projections of a rapid increase in population in coming years), but also the recently accelerating attrition rate. “In the last 18-months 20 sworn and support employees left to join nearby agencies for significant pay increases after being trained by FCSO,” the presentation states. “Until recently, it was rare that an employees would leave FCS for other law enforcement agencies.”
The Police Benevolent Association plans to hand out t-shirts made for the occasion this evening. “WE REALLY NEED TO PACK THE ROOM and WEAR THE TEE-SHIRTS,” Strobridge wrote. “We need you to show the Commissioners you have the Deputy’s back (and Sheriff Staly’s). We need to let the Commissioners know they need to pay our deputies as their/your life depends on it because it could.”
Michael Cocchiola says
Damn… FCSO is going to hold up the BOCC. Will they carry AR-15s just like far-right terrorists?
The sheriff’s office like all other budget items has limits. Sheriff Staly must learn to live within those limits. If his deputys’ pay is a priority, the sheriff can shift money around. That’s how it works.
I hope the BOCC is not bullied into taking money from other claimants to shovel more over to the sheriff
Deborah Coffey says
Fcso retiree says
I am retired from this agency. Staly is lying to you all. Deputies have been leaving this agency for surrounding larger agencies for the last 25 years because larger agencies have more opportunities. The state’s starting pay for law enforcement is $50,000 but you have to be willing to relocate anywhere in the state. Flagler County is a low crime retirement community. Staly has tried the amount of admin staff, commanders, and supervisors. This is a shell game and the taxpayers lose. Ask Staly for a salary breakdown of all of his staff. Many make $60,000-$115,000. This is way above our community average pay!! Plus they get tons of benefits. Do not grant this!!
Tripped the amount of administration and commanders.
How much of the Board of County Commissioner’s Budget goes to SO. The answer is astounding. This Sheriff is greedy, take into account the education to be an entry level Deputy vs. an entry-level Firefighter/Paramedic. Significant difference in knowledge base. An entry level deputy would be like the fire department hiring a Firefighter with no EMT or Paramedic in which case the salary would be closer to $34k. He’s trying to compare apples to oranges. Or cops (undereducated for their responsibilities) to Paramedics (literally translated to hands of a doctor). #NotallPublicSafetyistheSame
ULTRA MAGA says
Police and Firefighter starting Salary Should be the same since both are Dangerous ( at times Policing can quickly become Extremely Dangerous) Jobs! This is More PROOF the Impact Fees Must be Increased with some of the Fee income directed toward equipment purchases for FCSO and Fire Departments! Time for Common Sense Leadership; Time for McDonald and Pennington! Thank you FSCO for continuing Drug Arrests which will continue while America’s Southern Border is OPEN and Communist China REFUSES to STOP Exporting ILLEGAL Drugs (via-Mexico,etc) to America, thereby KILLING Americans!
I hope the county commissioners completely understand the negative fiscal consequences of underfunding the county’s law enforcement budget and not raising the salaries of our deputies to the minimal extent that Flagler County is on par with our neighboring counties. When deputies see that other law enforcement agencies are paying higher wages, many will beging the process of transferring to those higher paying agencies after Flagler County has invested a whole lot of time and money hiring, training and equiping these deputies. Once a trained deputy leaves the sheriff’s office for greener pastures, it becomes a revolving door where Flager County continues to invest taxpayer money to hire, train and equip new deputies, only to again loose trained personnel to other agencies who pay better. In the long run, that is an expensive cost to county taxpayers if our sheriff’s office is unable to retain the deputies that it hires. I am not a member of the sheriff’s office, only a county resident and taxpayer, and I wholely support Sheriff Staly’s effort to raise the salaries of his deputies in order to KEEP them here in Flager County once they are trained and out on the road. It is clearly a matter of dollars… either pay now, or pay more in the long run when the trained deputies leave and the county is forced into the revolving door process to replace them with new hires, which is a long, expensive process.
Joan Affatato says
I support my police department whole heartedly. Sheriff Staley my question to you is…
When President Biden calls out the militia (which is coming) on We The People, are you and our police department going to protect the citizens of Flagler County or Sheriff Staley are you going to support Biden?
Ben Hogarth says
This is just insane. Anyone who actually believes “the democrats” and Biden are turning the government against “the people” are nothing more than a bunch of whiny right-wing lunatics and grown toddlers who can’t accept they lost a fair election and have not won the popular vote for the Presidency in nearly 20 years. Maybe instead of throwing your tantrums, you should consider a CAT scan or mental health evaluation.
Because the only way the feds will actually come for you, is if you continue to make insane remarks about fomenting insurrection against the federal government. And at that point, when they do come to arrest you for threats of violence- no one is going to save you. You get arrested, you have your day in court, and the judge and jury throw the book at you. The end.
Unfortunately, we should add Darwins writings to the list of books we throw because I don’t think the message has taken.
Old Guy says
This is a new one I hadn’t heard before. Please give us more details.
The dude says
Turn off faux nooz… quick.
Deborah Coffey says
Sorry, honey, the violence is all on the right wing. You’re not following real news with real threats. Joe Biden isn’t going to hurt a hair on your head, but Trump’s boys will for sure!
Turn off fox news, you sound crazy!
LMAO! Better start prepping some more for that imaginary invasion.
Another retiree says
I would think that after all the retirements that have happened since Staly took office, (and a lot of high ranking ones too) there should be plenty of extra money in the budget. That is unless he’s paying all his cronies extra large salaries. 🤷♂️
This Staley Know It All, threating arrogant Sheriff. Is such an ego monger, it is pathetic. Christmas time, deputies dressed up like Santa on the roads in Palm Coast! Dressed like Construction workers all over Palm Coast at different times, looking to get any one he can for revenue. I cannot stand this guy!
Another year, another big ask by the Sheriff. I thought last year’s big ask was suppose to get us through for the next few years. I guess that was a lie. So this year we want to increase everyone’s pay and add 5 more officers. I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask for it but why not have the entire force show up to try to intimidate the Board of County Commissioners.
I’m retired now but worked for 47 years never being unemployed. If I didn’t like a job or thought I could make more money elsewhere dong what I do, I changed companies/jobs. That’s true for every worker in the US. If you think the grass is greener elsewhere, go for it. That’s true for the sheriff too. There are a lot of people who would love to be sheriff of this small, mostly retired community.
Stop trying to use these tactics to get what you want.
Starting pay in Flagler for a FF/EMT is 41,531 and single cert paramedic is 44,102. It’s deceiving to only post the higher pay of a higher qualification for FF/Paramedic
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Don’t get me started…… We have no real life threatening crime here to give almost half our budget away! Sell the fancy boats for a start and shift money around . Why does the Sheriff need so many new deputies? He is a fabulous showman and yes takes his job seriously but my husband and I are not planning to take a mortage to pay for toys. By the way why don’t you do something to make sure the county demolishes the VERY DANGAEROUS decrepit POS hotel on Old Dixie? Your deputies go out there all the time to do security checks – I have no intention of looking at that broken down (formerly) rate infested 10 year abandoned hotel while you buy another boat! Your staff does a great job yet – give them the money you reserve for your toys to them instead .
So, is the Sheriff’s Department going to buy and maintain more C.O.P. boats? What a waste! Staley wants to jump on the increase in taxes due to property price increases. Well the taxpayer will be stuck with this as the properties level out. It will never be enough. I see a deputy car drive though my neighborhood maybe twice a year.
Bill Mann says
I have to ask, how is it that Firemen make 5K more to start, their job is no where near as dangerous as a Deputy, paid to shop, eat, clean and sleep, enlighten me?
Concerned Citizen says
Having worked both as a LEO then retiring from Fire Rescue.
They work 24 on and 48 off. Yes traffic stops and arrests are dangerous. Why not go along with a FD and work a fully involved structure fire. See what it’s all about. They are also up close and personal with vehicle fires and hazmat situations. But no I suppose your right. It’s an easy job and they are getting paid way to much. I’d inset an eye roll here. But Pierre won’t let me.
Along with being State Certified Fire Fighters most are Certified Paramedics. That involves additional training. That many have paid for out of pocket. Not sure what your beef is with our FF/Paramedics. They don’t choose the starting salary. The hiring agency does.
-LEO schooling is approximately 2 semesters.
-a firefighter/EMT schooling is 2 months long.
-A firefighter/paramedic schooling is 6 semesters long.
-LEO works about 2100 hours a year.
-Firefighters work 2990 hours per year.
To put the hours in perspective, firefighters work 14 additional weeks per year. And you’re wondering how they are making more money?
-Both lines of work are dangerous.
The problem is people are comparing Flagler’s LEO’s compared to Flagler’s Firefighters. What they need to do is compare Flagler’s LEO’s with the surrounding counties.
The Sheriff’s office has a budget of 44 million dollars in which The Sheriff’s office can spend where they seem fit. This year he bought a building for 26 million dollars and is now asking for more money. He could have spent 1 million dollars less on the building and given all of his deputies a raise.
Fire Rescue’s budget comes from the FCBCC with a budget of 11 million.
Hope this helps.
My apologies. Both Fire/EMT school is 2 semesters long, not two months.
Why would a deputy in their right mind leave Flagler County to go to any other agency. This has to be one of the easiest jobs in Florida. Brand new Mustangs, plenty of overtime. Where else have you seen five or six deputies at a minor traffic accident. They are actually tripping over each other. Staly had to build a bigger building to fit them all!!
George Holloway Jr says
FYI to simply use the term “firefighter” is a slap in a face to the men and woman who do this job in Flagler County or anywhere. They are more than hose draggers who put fires out. They are EMT/Paramedics who are often the first line for medical emergencies. Not everyone off the street can do that job.
Concerned Citizen says
Our Sheriff certainly knows how to spend money. But does he know how to save it?
From a new building every time we turn around to new vehicles and multiple uniforms for all it adds up. He’s top heavy with brass and administration for an SO of this size. Are there any savings to be had there? A forensic audit of this agency would be interesting.
And shame on you Sheriff Staly for whining about the Fire Fighters receiving raises. They are just as deserving. And took longer to get what was due. That was a comment made in poor taste. We don’t need an us vs them mentality in public safety.
Instead of riding around and patrolling Staly should do the job he was hired for.