Butler County sheriff wants to refill 14 positions eliminated in budget cuts

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones is asking the county commissioners to let him refill 14 positions cut during $1.5 million in budget eliminations.

Jones said he needs to replenish positions that were cut this year to board the level of prisoners that will bring the county an estimated $10 million in revenue, which is the third-highest revenue slice of the general fund.

“We’re back, actually more so arresting people, domestic violence is up, crime hasn’t went down during this COVID, they didn’t stop stealing and robbing and killing. So we submitted our budget, worked with the commissioners' office. We lost $1.5 million this year, we were not prepared for that," Jones said.

"Thank God through attrition and less inmates we muddled through it and got through it, but we’re beyond that now. We need cars and we need the employees that we lost, we need them back.”

When the cuts were officially put through in September, Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer told the Journal-News there were 15 to 20 people who have left and not been replaced. Personnel cuts amounted to $1.17 million for salaries, insurance, retirement and Medicare. Another $218,786 was cut for vehicles, and the rest was for travel and training.

The sheriff’s budget consumes the largest slice of the county’s general fund budget. The $39 million adopted budget for 2020 was 36% of the total $109.4 million in expenditures, and his proposed $40.1 million spending plan for next year equates to 41% of the proposed $97.5 million general fund budget.

The commissioners have asked all offices, departments and independent boards that rely on the general fund to cut 7.4% over two years due to a projected deep drop in revenues from the coronavirus pandemic.

ExploreButler County justice system budgets to be scrutinized in hearings this week

As a whole, the adopted and proposed general fund expenses are down about $12.3 million, or about 11.2%. The commissioners projected a $20 million general fund revenue tumble early in the pandemic, but through the first nine months of the year, actual revenue collections from all sources are down 7.6%, or $5.1 million.

Jones' budget submission represents a 1.8% increase, or $708,450, over the originally adopted 2020 budget.

Since County Administrator Judi Boyko gave those numbers to the Journal-News last week, the sales tax installment for October was released. The $3.95 million collected represents a 3.4% increase over the same period last year. Sales tax receipts lag three months, so the collection reflects what people spent money on in July.

After the hearing Dwyer, said the sheriff’s office is not expecting the commissioners to just reinstate the cuts.

“We plan on working with the commissioners' office and finance department to discuss the future," Dwyer said. “This isn’t something that needs yo be done overnight.”

Commissioner Don Dixon told the sheriff they may modify some of the budget cut requests, with the understanding they might have to come back next year and readjust if the bottom falls out of the economy.

Jones said making the cuts this year was “like drinking caster oil, it’s not the best tasting stuff I ever drank in my life but we came thorough it and I believe every office holder came through. And if the tide turns sometime next year we’re more than willing to sit down and work with everybody just like we did this year."

Dixon has told the Journal-News if things continue to be fiscally positive the commissioners can consider requests from those who say they can’t make all the requested reductions.

“It’s fair to say that they (the 2021 budget requests) are going to be adjusted some, but the amount I don’t know yet,” Dixon said. “We’re still going to ask that they try and hold the line as much as they can, because there is just so much unknown out there, at least for the first quarter anyway.”

He said they wouldn’t just tell Jones he can hire 14 people all at once but would likely phase rebuilding the staff.

“We’ll see whether that could be done in stages or not," Commissioner T.C. Rogers said. "There were a couple (budgets) we could probably feel safe doing some (adjustments) at this time, but we’re going to definitely hold back until we find out what’s going to happen.”

In addition to healthier-than-anticipated general fund revenues. the county received $18.7 million in coronavirus relief funds. Dixon said they will be making CARES Act funding decisions very soon including reimbursing the general fund for some sheriff’s payroll, per newly relaxed federal guidelines.

“But all this has to be subject to the prosecutor’s approval that it meets all the guidelines, there are so many guidelines and they change every three or four hours," Dixon said. "What we don’t want to do is spend a few million dollars and have them do an audit and say you went by the old regulations and you’re going to have to pay us back.”

Butler County Sheriff’s Department budget by the numbers:

2020 approved budget: $39.4 million

Budget reduction for 2020: $1.5 million

2021 Proposed budget: $40.1 million

Cumulative change: 1.8% increase or $708,450

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