Saline County Commissioners began the 2018 budget process with a goal of providing the Sheriff’s Office with a realistic budget, with the “assumption” that department “won’t overspend in 2018”. If all of Sheriff Roger Soldan’s budget requests are granted, spending for contingencies, overtime, contract housing and inmate medical would require that an additional $1,379,433 be added to 2017’s Commission approved Sheriff’s Office budget of $6,825,409. The Sheriff also requested an additional $712,886 for one-time capital, technology and equipment improvement projects. In total, the Sheriff is requesting an additional $2,092,319 for 2018—taking the department’s annual budget to $8,917,728. That’s a 30% increase that, if fully granted, could translate into a 4 mil increase in property taxes.
County Administrator Rita Deister called the Sheriff’s budget request “overwhelming”. Because the State Legislature has imposed a “Tax Lid”, Deister has had much to juggle as she began pulling together 2018 budget projections. However, many expenditures for the Sheriff’s Office and Jail are exempt from the “Tax Lid”.
Soldan requested $300,000 to fund contingencies. Deister this is a “new line item” in the budget. She suggested Commissioners consider that this be placed in the Sheriff’s Office’s “Capital Improvement Plan” so the Sheriff would have to seek Commissioners approval to spend this money.
As part of the $1,379,433 increase in usual operating expenses, Soldan requested an additional:
- $708,721 for “contract housing” of jail inmates in facilities outside of Saline County.
- $190,981 for medical care of jail inmates. Deister calculated a 3 year average medical expense of $554,023/year.
- $21,970 for inmate meals, assuming a 2% increase in the jail’s food service management company contract.
- $42,000 for inmate travel.
- $39,376 in overtime for the Sheriff’s Office and Patrol divisions.
- $76,385 in overtime at the Jail.
Chairman Monte Shadwick acknowledged that those in the Sheriff’s Office will earn overtime, but questioned the amount of the overtime increase in the Jail. Soldan had recently appeared before the Commission with a plan to hire two additional corrections officers, with the intention of decreasing overtime.
Soldan prioritized his 2018 capital Improvements as:
- $6,000 for upgrading jail lighting.
- $32,000 for parking lot repairs.
- $31,500 for carpet replacement.
- $42,000 for keycard access.
- $85,000 for kitchen floor upgrades.
- $23,000 to upgrade additional areas of the kitchen floor.
Soldan made the following equipment Improvements requests:
- $398,407 for ten (10) vehicle replacements; this received hishighest priority. In 2017, the Commissioners approved $150,000 for vehicle replacements.
- $10,540 for ten (10) taxer XP26 replacements; this amount is consistent with what is budgeted for 2017.
- $4,000 for SORT Team Riot Gear.
- $6,995 for Stop Sticks.
The technology improvement plan was ranked across all departments, but includes the following items designated for the Sheriff’s Office:
- $30,783 for an L3 server for storage of videos and photos (given first priority).
- $38,600 for Jail video surveillance (given sixth priority).
- $2,800 for Verizon Network fleet software (given seventh priority).
Commissioners also began the budget process desiring to “provide employees with a competitive wage”. Deister calculated that it would cost $724,742 to provide a 2% increase in salaries and benefits; she was quick to clarify that the Commissioners would decide what, if any, level of increases was appropriate. She supplied these figures to provide them with some idea of what an increase would cost. The impact of any increases to the cost of providing health insurance to employees is considered in a later budget step.
Commissioners also expressed a desire to implement a gravel road upgrade plan. No costs for this upgrade were provided in Tuesday’s budget workshop. Road and Bridge Superintendent Darrin Fishel did request R&B’s budget be increased in 2018 to provide an additional:
- $100,000 for aggregate hauling.
- $47,000 for equipment improvements.
- $300,000 possibly for asphalt.
R&B’s equipment improvement program, in order of priority, includes requests for:
- $340,000 for three (3) new motor graders.
- $70,000 for two (2) slide-in water tanks.
- $28,000 for a used welding truck.
- $19,000 for a mower deck.
- $40,000 for a used sidewalk roller.
- $35,000 for a truck to be used by the Superintendent.
- $15,000 for various attachments.
Deister calculated that granting all departments the “spending authority” they were seeking could result in the County exceeding the “tax lid” by $672,563. The budget will likely dominate Commission discussions until a final budget for 2018 is passed in August.
City Has Not Replied to County’s EXPO Center Response
The 2018 budget includes the possibility of spending an additional $100,000 for building and ground improvements at the Livestock and EXPO Center. The 2017 budget appropriated $150,000 for capital improvements to the EXPO Center as well as an operating budget of $339,327. Given that the lease on the EXPO Center is scheduled to expire in 2019, Commissioners have long been wary of making capital improvements to the buildings and grounds when the City owns the land.
A few weeks ago, Commissioner Robert Vidricksen said he felt the Commission was being “held hostage” by slow responses from the City Commission in meeting jointly to discuss the lease. Vidricksen said Tuesday, he hoped that such a meeting would be held in the evening, and that it would be open to the public, so they could “hear the rhetoric being used”. Shadwick was open to that idea but didn’t know if the public would be permitted to comment. There was also discussion whether a City and County tour of the EXPO facilities was best accomplished when the buildings were empty or when they were in use.
Since Shadwick does not serve on the Building Authority, he asked Commissioners Vidricksen and Rodger Sparks how they would approach a future vote on building security. Both Vidricksen and Sparks indicated they were more likely to vote as individuals, taking into account what their constituents were saying to them. Commissioner Mike White also represents the Commission on the Building Authority.
Commissioner Jim Weese said, “It looks like the City will vote as a block.” Last September, City Commissioners voted in favor of securing the City-County Building, while the Building Authority will actually make the final decision. The County has three representatives on the Building Authority, the City has two, the Courts have one and there is a member-at-large.
Sparks summed up a recent Building Authority survey that “the majority” of employees “want to keep” the building “as it is and take down the signs” that prohibit the concealed carry of weapons. Vidricksen said he was strongly against guns in courtrooms; Sparks agreed and said the third floor of the building served as the courthouse and it already has additional security.
April’s Sale Tax Figures Improve
In April 2017, the County collected $362,073 in sales tax revenues; this is a 1.78% increase from the $355,736 collected in April 2016. However, 2017 year-to-date collections of $1,537,930 still lag 1.55% behind 2016 year-to-date collections of $1,562,113.
Commissioner Mike White was absent from the meeting. There was no televised public forum. Commissioners also spent thirty minutes in executive session discussing employee/employer negotiations.]