County Eyes Sheriff’s Department, Animal Shelter Funding
Incoming County Judge Jim Baker “supports both” raises for sheriffs’ deputies and a county animal shelter, but isn’t ready to talk yet about his solution to funding those pressing county concerns — and Faulkner County’s Sheriff Andy Shock will now wait until 2015 to pursue his department’s salary needs with the Quorum Court.
According to JP Randy Higgins, the proposed county-wide animal shelter needs $265,000 in operating expenses, and County Sheriff Andy Shock estimates $700,000 can fund salary increases his department sorely needs to retain experienced deputies.
While not blaming the deputies, Shock says the department “constantly loses” good employees to other area sheriff and police departments with higher salaries: “Until we raise our pay up, we’re not going to be able to retain a lot of people we’re using (now).”
Shock said it is time for the county to make public safety a priority, adding
I’m not even going to address the Court we have right now. I’m waiting till January 1…
We have dump truck drivers making $6,000 more a year than our sworn officers. Our guys put their lives on the line. We are lower — significantly lower on average — for a deputy, a detention officer, and a 91 dispatcher. It’s for my people, and we are grossly underpaid compared to other Class 6 counties in the area.
Higgins’ Courts & Public Safety Committee has met together with the county’s Budget & Finance and Road Committees to discuss ways to fund the animal shelter as well as alleviate the salary pressure on the sheriff’s department.
Looking for a total of about $1 million, Higgins says one option is to “squeeze the entire county budget” for the funds — or the county could re-adjust an existing sales tax allocation voters approved in 1999 to address county infrastructure issues:
“We have a half-cent sales tax that half goes to criminal justice and half goes to roads. We’re in a different place now (than 1999). Road conditions aren’t perfect, but they’re better.”
Higgins says changing the existing allocation from 50-50 to 55-45 or even 60-40 tilted toward criminal justice could provide the needed funding, and points out “we would have to take it back to the voters to vote on. All it would be is a reallocation of a tax that’s a dozen or so years old.”
Outgoing County Judge Alan Dodson this year had “cautioned us about taking money from infrastructure,” Higgins added. “It wasn’t that he was against it, but he cautioned about moving money around and the impact.”
And County Judge-elect Baker, while “more interested in getting resources from some source,” says “we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to figuring out where we’ll get the money.”
The Faulkner County road (fund) is in a conservative financial position because county judges have felt comfortable that money is secure, and in the world of budgeting, one thing that’s commonplace is ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it.’
Not in Faulkner County.
County judges felt comfortable that revenue stream won’t dry up.”
Committee members have a “positive reception” to putting the tax reallocation to a vote, Higgins says, but agrees a solution is better addressed in 2015: “It’s not formulated enough to bring it to the full court. At this point, we’re going to wait until the new Court is formed in January,and we’re going to come back and address it again.”