Committee Scrutinizes Sheriff's Budget Request

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The budget requests for the Sheriff’s Office and the local firefighters, rescue squads and EMA office was presented Thursday at the Cannon County Courthouse courtroom. There was a bigger than usual crowd gathered as the new candidates for the different county departments were present to view how the budget process was done.

First up for review was the Sheriff’s Department with Sheriff Billy Nichols and his bookkeeper Hilda Parham present. The Sheriff’s budget on page 17 of the presently proposed budget comes under the heading of Public Safety. Their copies consisted of one with a three percent raise added in and one without. Chairman of the budget committee Mark Barker recommended that they just go ahead and deal with the one with the 3% raise already added in.

Barker started going line-by-line with the budget requests, however this is not the time that the budget committee will be cutting the budget. This is just a time to present the budget to the whole committee, and for the budget committee to become familiar with what they will be dealing with when it comes down to a recommendation to the full commission.

Anything done at this meeting was not adopted nor rejected. That stage is yet to come.

There were questions however on where money was coming from if it hadn’t been definitively earmarked for that purpose. In one area it needed to be explained why the sheriff would need money to pay for a position that came about only six months earlier instead of budgeted in at the beginning of the fiscal year.

Positions were split to allow for a position to be made a full-time position. The position created was for a Grant Writer. The sheriff’s bookkeeper said they had money left over from last year to fund this position of Grant Writer for only six months. This money is not one that will occur every year, so it is not automatically “there.”

However, they moved money from a clerical position and took a once part-time position in clerical and made the position of receptionist into a full-time position all the while leaving a position at part-time and creating a full-time position and now the Sheriff is asking the county taxpayers to fund that position that has just now been created.

Basically the two part-time clerical positions were split up to make two full time positions and one part-time position, but money is needed now to fund it that way. Chairman Barker asked if the Department was going to be able to turn any money back this year like they did last year. Sheriff Nichols said “it is going to be close.”

Personnel issues for any department are where the money goes. Most buildings depreciate at a certain rate and you can actually plan for that. But employees are the biggest expense by far. As far as turning back money to the county, the Sheriff should be able to do that from what the Courier has learned from employees at the jail.

For example, the line item for the Chief Deputy (Line item 54110-109) is set at $28,000 per year. There is no one at the jail who is assigned to that job. One deputy said he thought that the job of Chief Deputy was taken by Charlie Wilder. However the proposed 2010-2011 budget shows that Wilder is one of the two investigators at the jail, each earning a wage of $32, 243.50.

Nichols is asking for this year’s budget to bring the salary up to $35,000 per investigator. So Wilder cannot be the Chief and Investigator, he cannot get two paychecks from one county entity. If that line item is not to be filled then the line item can stay until they hire a new person to fill that position, but this year the $28,847 needs to be returned to the taxpayers in the form of fund balance. Also it has been learned that the position of sargeant has been vacated. Although the person who had been demoted from that position will still have to draw deputy’s salary, it is not as much as the sergeant’s pay and money should be left in that account.

The budget process is still ongoing and the budget committee will ask these questions one by one when seeing where they can be cut.

Medical claims have exceeded budget $37,923; the medical budget was set at $65,000 for this last year and expenses to date are $102,923. The increase is due to two heart patients. One had a stint put in. A question was asked to the Sheriff why this person could not get furloughed and let him take care of this medical problem himself just like free people (taxpayers) have to do. Nichols said “sometimes that is not possible.”

Next up was Fire Prevention and Control. Most of the line items that have been raised are from the automatic raising of materials, such as gasoline and radio equipment and uniforms and supplies. There isn’t anything that would benefit any one person in any of these line items. It is the natural increase in goods. The raises in the motor vehicle line items are for major investments. Also this year there has been several grants that will be run through the county.

Rural Fire Protection (Fire department Grant). That amount is $76,741.00. This is what they call money in, money out, with no cost to the county.

Rescue Squad. The Rescue squad is a 501 (3) (c) organization and is funded by the communities through fund raisers. It comes into the county for record keeping purposes. They have not asked for any money in the last four years. Last year the county budgeted them $2,500 dollars up from $2000.00 from the year before. This year is about the same.

Other Emergency Management- EMA. There are slight increases in the requests due to normal increases in materials. There is a request for $40,000.00 to bring the director into a salaried position. A salary for the director of the Local EMA director which at this time is Mrs. Faye Morse has been denied for years for some reason. Total estimated cost to run this agency comes to $60,350.00. So far the county has failed to support a paid position for Mrs. Morse. She is operating mostly on her own money. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) agency is the main agency that this offices deals with our local EMA. Plus Homeland Security is most likely the mother agency. This local agency has the job of letting the US Government know of the needs of the county due to natural disasters. Governor Phil Bredsen has petitioned President Obama to declare 52 counties in Tennessee as federal disaster areas because of the devastating floods and death contributed by the last storms to cross the South. This is the job locally for our EMA. EMA has also secured a grant from the federal government Federal Homeland Security in the tune of $143,200.00. The federal share is 95% and our 5% to get this money the county’s part comes to $7,160.00.The next meeting of the budget committee will be on Thursday May 13th at 6:00 pm at the courthouse.
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Members Opinions:
May 09, 2010 at 7:38pm
How can Sheriff Nichols ask taxpayers to pay for a Chief Deputy position that doesn't exist? Or does it exist? In my opinion, doesn't Charlie Wilder run the entire office? Is he getting this extra salary? Isn't this not right for us as taxpayers? Why are we being asked to fund this grant writer position? Where is the grant money? We need answers from Sheriff Nichols. I applaud Commissioner Soetzel for bringing this to our attention as taxpayers.
May 11, 2010 at 8:18am
Chief Deputy does exist. Charlie does not run the sheriff's dept. Sheriff Nichols does. Charlie is not getting any extra salary. The line item you refer to as "grant writer" is titled "clerical" and this position has always been in the budget. Mr. Stoetzel has stated a lot of facts that are not true. If people want to know the true facts they need to come to the sheriff's office and talk with the sheriif or the bookkeeper and get the answers they need.
May 11, 2010 at 5:11pm
Ok, who is the Chief Deputy????? Is is a SECRET? In my opinion this is ridiculous.
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