Sher­iff could get at least five more of­fi­cers

Com­mis­sion­ers mull adding staff as bud­get talks con­tinue

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­

With the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sioner’s ini­tial dead­line of May 3 for its ap­proval of the county’s bud­get, there is still time to make more changes but de­ci­sions are be­gin­ning to come close to fi­nal­iza­tion.

One ma­jor de­ci­sion the county has been de­bat­ing is whether the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice should be granted its full bud­get re­quest that would stretch the county’s al­lot­ted fund­ing for the depart­ment by $10 mil­lion.

Charles County Sher­iff Troy Berry (D) has re­quested fund­ing for 23 more sworn of­fi­cers for fis­cal year 2017 and wants to de­velop a “ma­trix” for grow­ing the sher­iff’s of­fice over the next five years.

But af­ter tak­ing a look at the bud­get, the county has pro­posed to add five ad­di­tional of­fi­cers to the sher­iff’s of­fice at a cost of $388,500. And the depart­ment is ap­ply­ing for a fed­eral and state “Cops” grant, ac­cord­ing to David Ei­choltz, the di­rec­tor of fis­cal and ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices. If the ap­pli­ca­tion is suc­cess­ful, he said, more of­fi­cers could be added.

“It would award more than five of­fi­cers if he was able to get that. Our share equates to five of­fi­cers,” Ei­choltz said. “That might get you 15 of­fi­cers, for ex­am­ple. But we don’t know what the grant award would be yet. We’re just in the ap­pli­ca­tion process for it.”

If the county does not get the grant, Chief of Bud­get Jenifer Ellin said the five of­fi­cers would still be guar­an­teed in the bud­get with county fund­ing.

Ei­choltz said the No. 1 pri­or­ity for the gen­eral fund was to pro­vide ev­ery depart­ment with a “step” or merit in­crease this year with­out rais­ing taxes on ci­ti­zens. The bud­get ac­com­plishes that, he said, but that ate up most ad­di­tional rev­enue growth for the next fis­cal year.

“There wasn’t a lot of money left over to do much else with,” Ei­choltz said.

County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent De­bra Davis (D) said she still has many follow-up ques­tions and would still like to phase in of­fi­cers over an es­tab­lished time pe­riod.

Berry has pre­vi­ously ex­pressed his dis­plea­sure with mov­ing from “bud­get to bud­get” with­out hav­ing an es­tab­lished plan for mov­ing the sher­iff’s of­fice for­ward.

Berry re­quested 23 new sworn of­fi­cers for fis­cal year 2017, but he pre­vi­ously said, dur­ing a work ses­sion with the com­mis­sion­ers, that he would be will­ing to phase more of­fi­cers into the depart­ment over a set time pe­riod.

But County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Michael Malli­noff said the county wanted to make “mod­est rec­om­men­da­tions” for de­part­ments all around the county to see if the county can meet its pro­jec­tions for the next fis­cal year.

Phas­ing in any fu­ture po­si­tions at this point is not a good idea, Malli­noff said, and is not some­thing the Fis­cal and Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser­vices Depart­ment is com­fort­able with.

“We’re not rec­om­mend­ing any phas­ing in be­yond this year be­cause FAS and staff are un­com­fort­able pro­ject­ing be­yond this year,” Malli­noff said. “Frankly, it’s been a good year, and we don’t know whether that is go­ing to con­tinue or not.”

The county is try­ing to “ad­dress some needs but be con­ser­va­tive,” Malli­noff said.

But Davis said it is im­por­tant to con­sider what the sher­iff’s of­fice looks like in the fu­ture.

“It’s just very im­por­tant, to me, that the ci­ti­zens know, that the sher­iff’s depart­ment knows, that the cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers know that we re­al­ize how un­der­staffed they are,” Davis said. “All of our ci­ti­zens are go­ing to be im­pacted if we get be­hind the curve.”

Along with five new sworn of­fi­cers for the sher­iff’s depart­ment, four new po­si­tions are set to be added on for the Tri-County An­i­mal Shel­ter.

County Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said he was “pleased” to see the shel­ter be­ing ad­dressed with full-time po­si­tions.

With time dwin­dling down for bud­get ap­proval, County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) said they are look­ing to get the bud­get done on time for May 3. But, if needed, he said he and the other com­mis­sion­ers would be will­ing to go over their dead­line to make the bud­get right.

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