EATON — During a Preble County Commissioners’ meeting on Monday, Nov. 19, Commissioner Rodney Creech presented a proposal to add an additional sheriff’s deputy and corrections officer to the 2019 budget, at a cost of $131,572.69.
This is a request he has made to his fellow commissioners before, but he has not received an answer.
With his proposal, he presented a 2018/2019 budget information and requests sheet. According to Creech, all of his information has been checked by Auditor Lavon Wright for its accuracy.
His information shows an amended 2018 budget of $13,873,987, estimated 2018 expenditures of $12,232,287.79, and estimated 2018 receipts of $11,577,229.81. This shows a 2018 balance of income and expenses of $-655,057.98 (after spending over $1 million in capital improvements.)
Creech’s 2019 estimated revenue based on a four million carryover, instead of the $5 million carryover, is $14,473,309. The 2019 budget request amount is $13,616,145, including pay raises, capital improvements, $200,000 for inmate housing, and $250,000 in contingencies.
His estimated cash balance for 2017 was $2,500,000, 2018 was $3,000,000 and estimated 2019 was $4,000,000.
“Over the last four years we have continued to grow our cash balance even with averaging one million-plus dollars per year on capital expenses/improvements/building maintenance,” Creech said. “Our list of large capital expenses/improvements is almost complete.”
There is also a fund set aside from the last two years from MCO tax called Fund 179 with a balance of $1,189,282.72.
His request is for a deputy at the cost of $71,638.89 and a corrections officer at the cost of $59,933.80, for a total addition to the 2019 budget of $131,572.69.
“I think it is time that we as commissioners budget the county tax payers’ dollars and invest their money back into the county. It is our job to manage the county budget and make tough decisions,” Creech said.
“Based on our current cash balance (which has been increasing every year), our current budget, and ‘seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with capital expenditures,’ I am asking for you to look out for the safety of our taxpayers, and especially for the safety of those that work at the Sheriff’s Office.”
Commissioner Denise Robertson responded to his proposal, stating, instead of spending the funds, she believes they should give the taxpayers their money back.
“Once we’re fully staffed everywhere, we can do that, but we are skeleton-staffed,” Creech said. “I’m not disagreeing with you. Once our capital improvement list is completed, we will do what we need to do, but we can’t say, ‘Stop spending money.’ We have a job to do. We need to protect Preble County people.”
Creech compared the sheriff’s department to Brookville Police Department, which has three police officers covering the city at all times. The Preble County Sheriff’s Department has two deputies covering the entire county.
There are currently nine deputies and 21 corrections officers on staff at the PCSO. The deputies help provide 24/7 coverage for the county. The Correction Officers are assigned to three shifts in the jail. There are four to five officers working per shift, with jail capacity at 70 inmates. There are also additional position at the Sheriff’s Office, including court transport, juvenile court deputy, detectives, and other administrative positions.
“I hear you say these [additional] positions would reduce overtime, but by how much?” Robertson asked.
Creech responded, he does not know the exact number, but it would reduce overtime “greatly.”
“Since I have been here, we have gotten to the six million in cash balance, that is only half a year,” Robertson said. “Don’t you believe [other counties] would be a lot more comfortable at half a year? To give them a cushion on any downturns?
“I want to look at giving back to the taxpayers. I think we are doing a fine job with public safety,” Robertson continued. “We are going to have four extra deputies on the road this summer. I like that.”
“At the end of the year, I would project that we are going to be around five and a half to six million in cash. We are handling the taxpayers’ money and you guys want to continue to put money in the bank — banking money — and we’re not giving back to the taxpayers,” Creech said.
Creech then brought up the money from Fund 179, saying it should be included when looking at the budget.
“I’m asking for a deputy and a corrections officer. If you guys want to tell the sheriff and our taxpayers no when we’re sitting on seven million dollars in cash, my name is not going to be on it,” he said.
“In a few years down the road here, when the economy hits a wall, we’re going to be cutting,” Robertson said.
“We are running bare minimum staffing and there is no end in sight. If you look at the sheriff’s report, their bookings are up 16 percent. These guys are working harder than they ever have. Not only are they short-staffed, but they are overworked.
“Our cash balance is increasing, which is a beautiful thing. You won’t find a more conservative person than me — but I also want to get the job done,” Creech said. “It comes right back to running an efficient operation. Go up there and find out the number of people who want to leave because they’re overworked. I dare you to do some research.”
In regard to Fund 179, Commissioner Chris Day noted, “We said when we got that money, that we were going to put it in a fund and leave it alone to see how this plays out with the loss of that Medicare tax.”
“Our current budget doesn’t have it, so it’s not a loss. We are living within our current means, without the MCO,” Creech said. “I’m fighting for [the additional positions], but if I get shot down that’s fine, but at least people will know where I stand and where you stand.”
“Which is, you’re going to go tell everyone we’re against public safety,” Robertson said. “We do support public safety, have you not seen [the Sheriff’s] budget? His budget has increased a million dollars since I’ve been in office. We have been supporting public safety.”
Creech replied, he doesn’t believe the budget has increased that much. He then reiterated his numbers and proposal, asking for the commissioners to deliberate and get back to him with an answer.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH