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Posted March 5, 2014 | comments Leave a comment

Sheriff Carter's requests at odds with budget

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK -- Shenandoah County leaders and the sheriff again appear at odds over staffing in the law enforcement agency.

The Board of Supervisors held a work session on the proposed spending plan for fiscal 2015 and heard from department representatives about their needs for the next budget.

County Administrator Mary T. Price presented information to the board last week outlining department requests for fiscal 2015. Her budget does not assume an increase in any of the tax rates but shows the county faces a deficit of $1.8 million without taking into account the school system request.

Sheriff Timothy Carter said at the work session that several of his requests for funding did not make the proposed budget. It appeared that the spending plan does not currently include measures that would follow the recommendations of a staffing study paid for by the county and discussed by supervisors last year.

Carter requested funding for three deputies as recommended in the study. Carter said the deputies would allow his agency to help town police departments in the southern end of the county by transporting recently arrested people to the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail once it opens this summer.

Carter noted that town representatives are counting on his department to help them. Last year the board discussed how transportation of arrestees to the new jail would affect towns and the idea that the county would help the police departments.

Chairman David Ferguson said the board never agreed to fund any effort by the sheriff to help towns take arrested people to the regional jail.

"I don't know what the expectation of the towns is," Ferguson said. "We did not give the towns an expectation that you were going to transport their prisoners.

"The only thing that was ever relayed to the towns was that ... if the sheriff so chose to help you he could do it," Ferguson added. "But that would be between you and the sheriff. It would not be between you and the boar,d and there would be no expectations that we would fund to take their prisoners to the regional jail."

The county is paying its share of the regional jail costs to provide a place to take prisoners, Ferguson said.

Carter also wants to transfer money in his current budget for jail operations to pay part-time deputies in court services when the jail closes. These deputies move prisoners from the holding area to the courtroom. Price's budget does not include this transfer. Carter said this money was a priority and the staffing study recommended the transfer.

The sheriff and some board members appeared at odds over a staffing issue and Carter's request for money to hire more deputies. The State Compensation Board granted money to the county to cover three deputies the sheriff expects to lose when the local jail closes and the regional facility opens. Carter has explained that these three deputies would handle transportation of arrestees to the new jail.

However, a staffing study completed last year for the county also recommends the sheriff hire two deputies to handle the increasing number of calls as well as to help with prisoner transport to the new jail. Some board members have said that the compensation board money is for the three deputies recommended by the study. Carter disputes that assertion.

Price's budget includes funds for only the three compensation board positions.

The Sheriff's Office recently changed its scheduling to 12-hour shifts as recommended by the staffing study.

"I'm not a fan of working people 12 hours but we're doing as per the Matrix study guidance because they tell us it will alleviate some of the pressure of calls for service," Carter said.

The study warned that changing the shifts would result in officers accruing more overtime. Carter addressed this issue in his request but that was not recommended in Price's proposed budget.

"But I do think that if we see that the overtime is increasing and we can't manage through that, which we'll try to do, it's going to be something that I'll come back to the board and say 'hey, they told us that this would occur when we went to a 12-hour shift," Carter said.

Ferguson asked the sheriff to provide a list of items recommended by the study to help the board as they work on the budget.

"It isn't that we don't want to give you everything you want," Ferguson said. "We don't want to raise taxes."

The chairman warned that for the board to significantly increase spending for one department, the county would need to take money away from another department.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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