ANNA MARIA – Commissioners had serious questions about a proposed Sheriff’s Office budget that shows an 8.5 percent increase over the last fiscal year.
“It amounts to a $54,785.28 increase over the current contract,” explained Finance Director Diane Percycoe. “I had plugged in 3 percent because I didn’t have that information, so we need an additional $35,495.28, if this sheriff’s proposal is accepted.”
Chair Chuck Webb asked what caused the increase, and Percycoe replied, “They’ve replaced a couple deputies that left or retired and brought in some new ones that looked like they are at the top of the (salary) range.”
Mayor Mike Selby said lower paid deputies could be replaced by higher paid ones at any time and noted, “We have no way to control that. Maybe we could have the sergeant at one level and the deputies at another level. Give them a cap and let them figure out how to pay people.”
Percycoe pointed out that there is language in the contract that states that if a deputy who makes $47,000 leaves and is replaced with one that makes $67,000, the city is responsible to pay the increase in the retirement system contribution.
“We’ve lost control of our law enforcement budget. How can we winnow this down so we’re not being held hostage?” Webb asked.
Dave Bristow, sheriff’s office spokesperson, said there is process for determining which deputies will patrol the city.
“We offer the opening and deputies put in for it,” Bristow explained. “They go through an oral board for an interview, and the board chooses the deputy they think will work best.”
Percycoe also said the city will pay $2,304,783 to the county for law enforcement services plus an additional $698,735 for the Sheriff’s Office contract with the city for 2012-13 for a total of $3,003,518. The current contract for 2011-12 is $643,949.
However, Webb said, “We’ll always pay the county part. That’s not unusual.”
“Per capita, our residents are paying a higher rate than anybody in the county because it’s based on ad valorem tax,” Commissioner Dale Woodland pointed out. “We don’t have much control.
“Our crime rate is the lowest or near the lowest in the county, and we’re paying a premium. We can take those numbers and negotiate a price and let them figure out how to do it.”
Woodland asked Percycoe to get figures on what other cities are paying for law enforcement. Selby said he would discuss the issue with Sheriff Brad Steube.
The proposed $2,259,212 budget is based on a 2.0 millage rate. The current fiscal year’s budget is $2,219,756 and the millage is 2.05.
Percycoe said the budget includes a 3 percent salary increase for full time employees and 1.5 percent salary increase for part time employees.
Woodland said he is opposed to any salary increases and added, “The city can’t continue to afford increases. There’s no way to justify that financially.”
Selby said last year, commissioners said they would implement either a COLA or a 3 percent increase, whichever is less.
“With government employees, you reach a ceiling; you only get paid so much,” Webb pointed out. “There are no more raises except for the cost of living. Because of the impact of the economy, if we don’t adjust it for the cost of living, we’re actually paying them less.”
Percycoe told commissioners that wind insurance is now available for the city pier at a cost of $54,873 for the pier and $34,307 for the boardwalk.
Webb told her to determine the replacement cost and said it might be more cost effective to put money into a reserve fund for replacement.
Jim Conoly was the lone resident to speak.
“We’ve got problems with parking and speeding on North Shore and enforcement,” he said. “Consider putting more money into the police department instead of taking money away. We cannot base our requirements on what other people in the county are doing.”
He said other issues are having more beach patrols, repairing street edges and corners and maintaining swales.
The next budget work session is Tuesday, July 24, at 6 p.m.