Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney responded Tuesday to reports earlier this month that the sheriff’s department is staffed at the same levels it was in 1985.
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s Fiscal Court meeting, McKinney passed out a roster and the amount budgeted by the county in 2012 and 1985, respectively. The roster showed the sheriff’s department had a staff of six people in 1985 — not including Sheriff Tommy Sims and Clerk Bennie Thompson — with a total budgeted amount from Fiscal Court of $35,000. The department currently has 19 funded positions — not including Sheriff Marty Elliott and clerks Connie Smith and Janice Spears — with an appropriation for payroll of $1,001,126.
McKinney noted the budgeted amount for the department’s staff has increased at a rate of more than 13 percent annually, while the general fund budget has only increased at about 4 percent. McKinney said he was disseminating the staffing figures for information purposes only and didn’t wish to engage in a back-and-forth with Sheriff Elliott over the issue.
However, he wanted to make clear that the department receives more financial support than it did a quarter of a century ago and there are considerable resources at the sheriff’s disposal.
“Every department has assets, and you have to manage those,” McKinney said Tuesday. “It is up to Sheriff Elliott to manage his department’s assets.”
McKinney was responding in part to a news report in The Advocate-Messenger about a July 24 meeting in which Elliott said there were the same number of deputies now that there were 27 years ago. Magistrate Phil Sammons had raised questions at the meeting about cutting the department’s increasing overtime costs. A financial report presented at the meeting showed there had been $42,354 in overtime so far this calendar year and $25,081 between April and June.
On Tuesday, Elliott stood by what he said during the meeting and told a reporter afterword about needing more certified deputies, but said he was referring to patrol strength. He said the real issue isn’t overall staffing, but the number of deputies available to patrol and go out on calls regarding crimes he said have increased in number and seriousness.
Elliott pointed out that of the 19 non-office positions, eight are only authorized to work as court security officers; two — James Wilcher and Bobby Craig — are retired; Dustin Clem works part time as a school resource officer for Boyle County Schools; and Brian Wofford is occupied primarily with detective work.
Elliott said that leaves five full-time deputies to work patrol. According to Elliott, the combination of transporting prisoners and a requirement that three bailiffs be available for each court proceeding make it almost impossible to provide full coverage at certain times. He said he is trying to follow best practices for law enforcement handed down by the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training and the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association while also responding to an outcry from the public to address property crimes such as burglaries.
So far this year there have been about 80 break-ins to homes, and only five have been solved, figures Elliott said are directly the result of deputies being pulled in too many directions. The explosion of drug-related crime has made it even more difficult to reign in overtime pay, for which deputies and other staff receive time-and-a-half.
“Overtime is never going to go away, because this isn’t like a factory job or another kind of work where you can predict how many hours you will have to work and then you go home,” Elliott said, adding that he does not receive overtime pay but frequently works long hours multiple days in a row.
The sheriff believes he needs four additional deputies — full time or a combination of full or part time — and two detectives to adequately give the county coverage and work the growing number of drug and burglary investigations the public expects his department to conduct.
Elliott said McKinney and others on the Fiscal Court have all discussed staffing and have said they are willing work with him. He said he knows there likely will have to be increases in revenue from somewhere to accomplish what he would like to do with the department, a process that may have to happen gradually.
“I realize Fiscal Court is very gracious in what they give, and they have a job to do to make sure each department is fiscally responsible with the budget,” Elliott said.
McKinney said he and others on the court will continue to monitor the situation, but there are no current plans to increase the budget in the near future.