Job freezes still planned
Despite the Summit County Council’s recent decision to raise taxes, Sheriff Dave Edmunds said he’ll still likely have to freeze positions in 2013.
"At the end of the day, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind I’m going to have fewer deputies working for me than I did this year," Edmunds said.
On Dec. 19, the County Council voted to increase the Municipal Fund tax, which funds 80 percent of the Sheriff’s Office budget, and approved the final 2013 budget.
Edmunds’ 2013 budget for policing services, such as patrol, criminal investigation and major crime units, increased $61,800 over his 2012 budget. The budget for all divisions under Edmunds, including the jail, dispatch and Search and Rescue, went down $49,000 from 2012. Both changes equate to a less than once percent difference.
"It’s not much of a change. They are basically telling him he is status quo with the demand for services increasing," Summit County Accountant Matt Leavitt said.
For example, Judge Kerr, the District Court judge, has requested a full-time bailiff in her court room or at the front door.
"But the sheriff is saying he doesn’t have the resources for that, so in order to provide that service he needs additional funds. In order to keep doing everything he has been doing in the past, plus do whatever new things he has been requested to do, he needs additional funds," Leavitt added.
County Manager Bob Jasper originally recommended a policing budget that included an additional $250,000, but the amount was cut as the County Council grappled with balancing the 2013 budget.
"Some on the Summit County Council have been steadfast in their beliefs that I can find $250,000 in my budget," Edmunds said. "But I cannot. The only way I can find that kind of money is to lay people off, or not fill open positions, which is still functioning at a reduced personnel level."
However, Edmunds said there is a silver lining as far as job cuts go, as he’s had a number of retirements and deputies let go in the last few months.
"So there are open positions, but I think it’s clear some of those positions will not be filled," he added.
Not only has the Sheriff’s Department lost people in the last few months, but Edmunds expects there will be more attrition in the near future.
"One individual came into my office and made it clear that he’s had it with the county government and he’s ready to go work somewhere else," he said. "Every single year he feels like he has to justify his existence. He’s tired of no pay increases and the reduction of benefits. And frankly, he’s one of my best people. I’m sad to see him go."
Edmunds suspects it is only the beginning.
"A lot of my deputies are at the end of their rope," he said. "This year, a lot of my deputies took exception to the fact that we have to justify our existence in a county where the calls for service are increasing. My guys are running ragged."
The day after Christmas, calls for service during a three-minute period involved a Search and Rescue for two missing snowmobilers, a domestic violence-in-progress 911 call and a car rollover, he said.
"It’s typical for what we deal with on a bad weather evening, but it’s one thing after another. And we were once again reminded of how busy we are," he said.
Not only is Edmunds operating with fewer deputies, but he said Summit County should actually be adding positions to his staff.
"Over the last five years, our calls for service have gone up anywhere from 10 to 15 percent," he said. "Last year was a little anomalous at 21 percent. But I have had no additional peace officers to contend with those additional calls for service. In fact, I have had fewer, significantly fewer, to deal with a 50 percent increase in calls for service over a five-year period."
Edmunds said he’s probably lost more deputies to other police departments in the last six months than he’s lost in the 10 years he’s been Sheriff — a trend he expects will continue.
"It’s sad," he said. "My folks are just stressed. They are having to perform at a much higher level and their work environment is becoming increasingly stressful because of the amount of work they are being asked to do. They feel under appreciated and they would prefer to work somewhere else at this point. A lot of the good ones are starting to leave."
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