County to consider raises for some sheriff’s office employees

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Polk County commissioners, after a lengthy discussion Monday with Sheriff Donald Hill, said they will consider implementing raises in next year’s budget for some officers, mainly jail staff.
The current budget proposal does not include the recommended increases from the sheriff for fiscal year 2011-2012, which will begin July 1.
Commissioners held their first budget work session Monday, May 9 and discussed recommended budgets for some departments.
It is unclear whether the sheriff’s requests for increases will be granted. Commissioners Tom Pack and Ted Owens have indicated they are in favor of granting the raises, but commissioner  Ray Gasperson presented slides on Monday that indicated the county cannot currently afford the increases.
Pack recommended the county take leftover jail repair funding from this year, which should amount to approximately $55,000, to fund the increases for the sheriff’s office. Others, however, asked how the increases would be paid for in years to come.
“If you roll over the $55k, that’s a one time deal,” Whitson said. “How are we going to pay for that next year?”
Hill requested salary and grade increases for some of his officers and administrators during the county’s March meeting, saying he is losing officers to other departments because of low salaries. Hill requested approximately $26,000 of increases, with approximately $19,000 requested for jail employees.
“I still think they are entitled to that increase,” Hill told commissioners. “I’m not going to back down. I’m going to stand up and say I think they deserve what I asked for.”
Hill mentioned several items in the recommended budget that could cause a problem for his office, including $19,000 recommended for part-time salaries. Hill asked for $25,000, saying he uses his part-time employees to cover officers taking time off.
Another issue, he said, is in the animal control department, which currently operates with one officer. Hill said he either needs a salary increase for that officer or an increase in part-time salaries to give the officer time off.
“Used to, you had two animal control officers in the county,” said Hill. “Now you’re expecting one guy to do what two guys did before. Every guy deserves time off.”
Whitson said if the officer would gain BLET (Basic Law Enforcement Training) certification, his pay and grade would automatically increase, which brought up another discussion among commissioners regarding other sheriff’s office employees who do not hold BLET certification.
Hill said the county, under a former sheriff, allowed the animal control officer to be hired without the certification, and because he is the only animal control officer, he doesn’t have time to obtain the certification.
“Who is going to cover animal control while he’s going to school for months?” Hill asked.
Hill said other officers who cover animal control do not have rabies vaccinations, which cost $1,000 apiece.
Other officers, such as in the detention center, also do not have BLET certification, which Hill said should be a policy the county changes for future officers. Deputies and other officers are required to have certification in order for Hill to hire them. Commissioners said now may be a good time to change the policy considering Hill said he is about to lose two more officers to better paying jobs.
“I’ve argued from day one that I’m losing people,” Hill said. “I’ve got to figure out how to send these people to school. I wish that was the policy a long time ago…. You’ve got to be competitive. Unless you’re competitive they are going to go somewhere else.”
Gasperson showed slides indicating the lack of growth in the county’s recent tax base (see charts below).
Polk’s property values have decreased, Gasperson showed, saying that some of the decline is in vehicles because people, by trend, are no longer buying new cars.
“This is the world we’re in,” Gasperson said. “We’re seeing a reduced tax base, or certainly flat. We have to make sure we’re in a position we can shoulder this budget a year from now. If we do a one-time increase in any department, can we carry forward because we have a flat income stream?”
Gasperson said if Polk does see a growth in assessed values in the future, things may be different, but even if the economy does start to improve, it tends to take about a year for governments to see a reflection of that improvement in their revenues.
“That’s where we’re at and the parameters we have to live within,” said Gasperson. “I can assure you I will only support what will make it possible to stay with the same tax rate and not pull from our fund balance.”
Hill said he is just asking that commissioners consider his requests and if they don’t, he respects commissioners’ decision and will carry on.
Polk held another special meeting and work session last night.
The county will hold the budget public hearing on June 13 and plans to adopt the new budget on June 20. The current recommended budget calls for no tax increases.

Polk County growth rate summary, 2005-10
2010                  2009               2008                    2007                 2006                 2005
Overall budget (general fund)    $21,910,866    $25,326,051    $23,690,205    $21,847,825    $23,530,461    $18,781,112
Revenue (general fund actual)    21,547,462        22,723,394      23,034,670       22,031,977       23,488,220      18,555,813
Fund balance available (gen. fund) 7,058,899      6,107,233         7,679,650          7,335,518         6,244,808        5,558,675
Salaries, wages (all funds)*                5,529,545      5,704,910        5,273,251           5,101,255          4,755,204        4,542,987
Growth rate                                          27%**               3%                   4%                        6%                        3%                      3%
* Does not include fringe benefits; in 2010, fringe benefits were approximately 35.25% of salaries       ** Revaluation

Polk County tax base, fiscal year 2001-12
Fiscal year    Assessed value    Percent increase
2012              $2,725,859,916    -0.57%
2011                 2,741,263,069    0.19%
2010                2,736,061,201    27%
2009                2,004,815,369    3%
2008               1,944,624,875    4%
2007               1,857,794,725    6%
2006               1,745,950,863    3%
2005               1,690,195,350    3%
2004               1,640,819,000    2%
2003               1,606,885,538    20%
2002               1,286,511,113    15%
2001               1,095,519,750    Base year
Average growth 2003-2009    5.94%
Average growth 2011-2012    -0.09%

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