DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown said his department will run out of overtime money this summer after the board of commissioners cut his budget next year by $900,000 – a reduction that led to his threatening commissioners with a lawsuit.
But, now, Brown said his staff is looking for areas to cut in his budget to keep officers on patrol. Traditionally, the jail has operated with 60 fewer detention officers than the number recommended in a 1995 county staffing study, Brown said. He said he uses the department’s overtime budget to keep the jail fully staffed.
“When you don’t have enough people to do it, you have to rely on overtime,” he said. “I’ve always run my overtime in the red because it’s always been under-funded.”
The board of commissioners passed a $564.9 million budget last month that cut about $20 million from CEO Burrell Ellis’ budget issued in December. Rather than pass the 1.86 millage increase in Ellis’ budget on to taxpayers, commissioners rejected the plan and chose to cut $900,000 from Brown’s budget in the final hour along with cuts to other departments.
Brown said his budget next year is about $75 million.
He said he predicts the department will exhaust its overtime funds this July. He said he couldn’t say where he plans to cut, but the money will likely come from operating funds. He said he also earmarked more than $800,000 to pay the department’s bills late last year – bills that were not paid until after the commissioners passed their budget. So, the money is coming out of his budget this year. “I don’t have a ($900,000) reduction. I have a $1.7 million reduction from my budget,” he said.
Brown said he’s not close to filing a lawsuit yet. “They tell me privately that they’re going to take care of it, but I don’t know what they’re dealing with over there,” he said. “When it gets to the point that we don’t have monies to do that then we’re going to have to start cherry picking the things that we can’t do because we don’t have the money to fund it.
“There has to be an appreciation of the sheriff’s office role in public safety.”
To save residents and business owners a tax increase, the board made cuts to some law enforcement agencies. The district attorney’s office lost $250,000. More departments saw increases, however. More than $250,000 was restored to the probate court’s budget. Nearly $400,000 was restored to the magistrate court’s budget. Nearly $1.3 million was restored to the superior court, and nearly $1.2 million was restored to state court.