|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company
Commissioners approve 2012 budget
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — Polk County Commissioners approved the budget for the 2012 fiscal year on Tuesday and set the tax rate at 62.77 cents per $100, continuing the same ad valorem tax rate since 2005. “Revenues are anticipated at a conservative level,” County Judge John Thompson. “We won’t use the fund balance unless we have to. We have to present a balanced budget and have to be prepared to spend $254,950.” The budget includes two new staff position for the Polk County Jail — an Assistant Jail Administrator and a correctional officer to help meet the growing inmate population that were approved Tuesday. The current budget year that is coming to a close provides for 27 correctional officers and supervisors, according to Sheriff Kenneth Hammack. “To properly supervise inmates, I have to have four people on the floor, one in the control room to answer calls from cells, open and close secured doors for officers moving through the jail and deal with the public. That leaves one person per shift to handle intake and release of inmates,” Hammack said. “Every morning a JP comes to the jail and an officer is needed to assist with arraigning folks, setting fines and bonds. Sometimes the judge can be there three or four hours to see the folks brought in that day,” Hammack said. “One person can’t book in 14 or 15 folks a night. Each inmate takes 20 to 30 minutes, if the officer is real knowledgeable about booking procedures,” he added. That staffing level leaves no room to cover shifts for staff members to take holidays, vacation or sick leave, according to the sheriff. Currently, transport officers are having to cover shifts to meet requirements for the current 138 inmates being housed at the jail. The two additional officers will cost the county an estimated $87,980. The sheriff’s department will transfer $10,000 of that cost from a line item for merit raises that has not been spent in previous budget years due to staff changes during the year. Polk Co. Sheriff’s Office will try to further offset the increased spending by seeking contracts with other counties to house overflow inmates at the jail. Hammack agreed to work with Auditor Ray Stelly to determine a per diem rate per inmate that will cover the costs of housing the inmate and provide some revenue to Polk County. Initial figures by the sheriff’s department show a rate of $38 per inmate for the first 10 inmates from a single county and $37 a day for the next 10 inmate/days. “Based on those figures, if we housed 48 inmates even at $35 a day, it would generate $613,200 a year in revenue. It would only cost half of that to pay salary and benefits of the staff and operating expenses. County Judge John Thompson asked County Auditor Ray Stelly to evaluate the budget projection and come up with a number that “we can hang our hat on and say if the sheriff came up with somebody to rent beds to, we would make money.” Commissioners also agreed to provide matching funds of $26,758.08 to allow the sheriff’s department to participate in the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP). The state provides $62,751,90 of the program cost which uses existing officers who volunteer to work overtime to target speeders in selected areas, patrol for intoxicated drivers and enforce seat belt laws. According to Hammack, when the county participated in the STEP program in 2008 it generated $108,621 in county revenue in Precinct 1 alone. In 2009, the Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace’s office took in more than $77,000 in fines. Over the two-year period, officers wrote 1,994 citations. “You made a lot of people happy,” Thompson said. “We got our DWI crash numbers down too,” Hammack said. The new county budget also includes one new staff position for the maintenance department to handle custodial duties at the Judicial Center and courthouse. “We’ve got a $10 million investment that will be in deplorable condition if we don’t maintain the general areas,” Thompson said. “When family court is in session, the restrooms need cleaning multiple times a day to cope with traffic and dirty diapers. When they’re not cleaned, people march up to my door to complain.” County Maintenance Supervisor Jay Burks explained that his department tries to use labor from four agencies that have clients that need to satisfy community service requirements. “We may have two people one day that will be here two to four hours. I’ve talked to probation, but there’s no repercussions if they don’t show up,” Burks said. Experience Works, a program that offers on-thejob training for workers 55 and over, is being down-sized, according to Burks. “When they lose a person, they’re not replacing them. We’ve lost four in the last four months,” Burks said. The proposed budget called for two, but after Pct. 1 Commissioner Bob Willis objected to created the two positions, he made a motion to hire one custodian that passed over the objections of Thompson and Pct. 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet who supported the addition of two custodians. The three employees in the custodial maintenance department clean the common areas of six county buildings daily. Eleven other buildings are serviced on an as-needed basis. They have weekly groundskeeping duties at six locations and handle daily mail collection and processing at five buildings. Hammack agreed to work with the maintenance department to have inmate work crews take over groundskeeping duties at locations other than the courthouse.