Sheriff David Morgan released on May 1 his proposed budget for next fiscal year. We all knew it was coming because the daily newspaper, interim County Administrator George Touart and some of the county commissioners had already attacked it and started calling the sheriff names before they had seen it.
The sticker shock was huge, $95,057,838—an $18,864,522 million increase over the current budget. The daily didn’t know what was included in the budget, but the goal of Touart and County Commission Chairman Gene Valentino was to kill it before the public ever saw it. And the daily with its long history of fighting with Morgan was a willing helper.
On April 30, the day before the budget was published, the daily published an editorial saying Sheriff Morgan should have defended his budget with their reporter before it was sent to the county, and called the budget that the paper hadn’t seen “excessive” and recommended the commissioners reject it.
The next day columnist Shannon Nickinson doubled down on the paper’s view of Morgan and his budget. She labeled the proposed budget an “outrageous demand.” Sheriff Morgan needed to act more adult, use his ”big-boy voice” and talk with them about his budget.
Morgan’s proposed budget forces the county to face issues that it doesn’t want to face. The jail and the disparities in compensation and benefits between the Board of County Commissioners and Sheriff’s Office have been “cans” that they have kicked forward for years. Morgan has said that can’t happen any longer—at least not on his watch.
For two years, the county has sat on a report that shows the jail is understaffed. This week’s cover story gives a peek into what that means for the men and women who work in that county facility. Somehow they have held the jail together, but at some point the county commissioners need to deal with it.
The cost to properly staff the jail is $6,324,157. The county starts its detention officers at the road prison, which is controlled by Touart and the commission, two percent higher than what the sheriff’s office does. To reach parity for sworn personnel, Morgan needs $658,409.
More pay disparities exist and Morgan wants it to stop. He is asking that his employees get the same treatment as the county’s other employees when it comes to getting paid overtime and holidays. The cost is over $8 million.
Morgan isn’t asking for a pay raises, just equal treatment for his deputies and other employees. Is this excessive or outrageous?
No, but these are discussion starters for the 2013-14 budget.