Committee wrangles out budget for new jail

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Three days of wrangling by the Carroll County budget committee finally came to a conclusion Friday afternoon with the committee recommending an annualized budget of $803,150 for the county's new detention center, which includes $449,200 for personal services and $353,950 for total expenses, and obtaining an outside source study to recommend staffing needs for the facility when operating no more than 64 beds.

Throughout the week of meetings, the budget committee made no reference to the quorum court's desire to give all county employees an across-the-board 25-cents-per-hour raise, except to make sure that department heads had included the proposed raise in their budget requests.

The detention center should not require the entire $803,150 to operate in 2005, as it will not be operational for the entire year. Still, committee members were concerned about the level of expenses, as only about $800,000 is expected from the sales tax for the new facility until the construction loan is paid off in 2009.

Annual revenues from the tax are estimated at $1.5 million, with 10 percent being held in reserve, and $555,000 required for loan payments.

The committee's decision was counter to what was requested by Sheriff Chuck Medford, who asked for a total annual detention center budget of $948,400. He continued to maintain that staffing needs of the facility at partial occupancy is little, if any, different from that needed for full capacity, due to the pod layout with a central observation point.

Committee members maintained that Medford's proposal still calls for one more person than initial jail consultants said would be needed to operate the facility at full capacity, and objected to Medford's salary schedules.

Perhaps unaddressed by those initial consultants was the need for security for prisoners while awaiting court appearances at the courthouse across town from the detention center, Medford countered.

The committee recommended a county general fund budget of $3,280,658, which includes a new position for elections in the county clerk's office, a part-time position at the county airport, and partial support, with the City of Berryville, for a part-time bailiff and clerk with the Berryville District Court.

The general fund budget, which is limited by state law to 90 percent of projected revenues, contains about $26,071 to fall back on.

As the budget committee concluded its business, which will be compiled for consideration by the quorum court on Dec. 9, Botelho commented about the three days of intense meetings, saying, "I hesitate to say this, but this has been like standing in quicksand shooting ferrets in heat ---- I think we are done."

Immediately following adjournment of the budget committee's meeting, the county personnel committee, which recessed just prior to the first budget committee session on Tuesday, reconvened and referred the election position to County Clerk Shirley Doss to develop a job description. A job description for the county airport position is to be provided by the airport commission at its Dec. 2 meeting.

Botelho expressed concern about Prosecutor Tony Rogers' proposal to cut his hot check coordinator position to part time and use that money to give raises to his office manager and victim-witness coordinator, while still turning back several thousand dollars to the county.

The proposal puts the victim-witness coordinators' pay at $2,016 over the county's maximum, and the office manager at $4,000 over maximum.

While awaiting Rogers' arrival, committee members discussed earlier precedent regarding county employees' pay, and JP Eva Reeve emphasized the need for performance appraisals, saying "We've got to start giving pay raises for excellence." She also recommended better training for employees, and stated that "good people are motivated by standards."

Rogers stated that his proposal would make his employees' pay more competitive with what can be earned at the public defender's office, which is entirely funded by the state.

Reports indicate the move would also put wages for the prosecutor's staff above that paid to similar, more experienced, employees in the circuit judge's office.

Rogers was directed to submit job descriptions for his office manager and victim/witness coordinator by Jan. 1.

The personnel committee deferred addressing staffing needs for the new detention center pending a report from jail professionals.

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