Sheriff seeks $1 million more: Money from 2018 county budget would beef up patrol, jail staffing

Nearly $1 million in additional funding is being sought to operate the sheriff’s department and jail in Bartholomew County next year.

Sheriff Matt Myers presented a combined $7.2 million budget to the Bartholomew County Council this week. That includes a 3 percent raise for full-time staffers.

“We don’t have enough people to operate the jail,” the sheriff said. “All we’re asking you to do is stop the bleeding.”

During his presentation, the sheriff emphasized that the $985,744 he was seeking in excess of this year’s budget does not include any proposals from the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress in Bartholomew County.

Next month, the alliance is expected to recommend that an unused 120-bed section of the jail be converted into a addiction-recovery center for inmates.

Jail

Myers is seeking $3,654,476 to operate the jail in 2018, which represents an increase of $629,219 over this year’s budget.

That would include the cost of adding five correction staff members and 10 part-time employees, Myers told the council. Other cited higher expenses includes the cost of food, supplies and medical items.

More money is needed because the jail has experienced an accelerated growth in its population every month this year, including an 18 percent increase in the female population in a year’s time, Myers said.

When questioned about two additional medical personnel he was requesting, Myers said circumstances are forcing employees without medical training to occasionally administer drugs to inmates.

“That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen,” said council member Mark Gorbett, a former two-term sheriff.

Due largely to the opioid crisis, medical cases have increased significantly and more intervention is required for detoxification, the sheriff said.

The sheriff cited an study released earlier this year that states current jail staffing is 16 full-time positions lower than the standard set by the Indiana Department of Correction, Myers said.

In an effort to try to make up for the lack of manpower, the department has been using overtime and some part-time employees.

Although the council appropriated $70,967 for overtime pay this year, the jail has already been forced to seek additional allocations, the sheriff said. As of the end of July, a total of $82,247 had been provided.

Besides unexpected illnesses and injuries, substantial overtime is required to fill gaps during vacations and holidays during periods when all positions are not filled, said Major Chris Lane, chief deputy for the department.

In order to permanently address personnel issues, Myers is proposing a two-phase plan that includes adding an additional seven full-time positions during the initial phases.

Besides the opioid crisis, Myers also cites a recent state requirement that low-level felons serve their sentences at the Bartholomew County Jail. That has caused the number of Level 6 felons housed at the jail to more than quadruple in the past year, the sheriff said.

While the state is reimbursing the county $35 a day per inmate, jail officials say the actual cost runs between $85 and $100.

Although the Indiana Department of Correction is expected to provide $421,855 in reimbursements this year, that money goes into the county’s general fund rather than directly to the jail, Myers said.

Law enforcement

Apart from the jail, Myers is seeking $3,967,326 to operate his law enforcement division. That is an increase of $356,525 over this year’s budget.

Besides the requested 3 percent pay increase for employees, most of the payroll increase will go toward hiring three new road patrol deputies and obtaining 11 patrol vehicles, Myers said.

Three new recruits are currently in training at the Indiana Police Academy. After they graduate, those recruits will have to spend up to a year in field training before they earn merit deputy status, Lane said.

Additional employees are required because emergency calls continue to increase in comparison to previous years, the sheriff said.

Based on trends, Myers forecast that Bartholomew County will have 34 deaths due to opioid overdoses by the end of this year. In comparison, there were 12 opioid-overdose deaths last year and one the previous year.

But due to an overdose antidote now being carried by emergency responders in Bartholomew County, Myers predicts at least 104 lives will be saved by administering naloxone this year.

Myers asked that $9,907 be placed into a 10-year capital plan next year to purchase body cameras and new stun guns.

Council members did not raise any objections to Myers’ budget proposals.

However, Gorbett made it clear he expects spending plans to undergo extensive scrutiny as the 2018 budget process continues.

“There is an elephant in this room, and that is we don’t have enough funding,” Gorbett said. “We have to address that before we can move forward.”

Budget schedule

The Bartholomew County Council will continue its 2018 budget discussions from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday and from 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Budgetary matters are likely to be discussed further with appointed and elected officials during a regularly-scheduled roundtable meeting at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 1.

A first reading of the 2018 budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 13.

The second reading and adoption of the general fund budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 11.

The county council meets in the fourth floor meeting room at the Bartholomew County Government Office building at the corner of Third and Franklin streets.

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.