Cumberland County’s budget committee approved hiring two new road deputies for the sheriff’s office during Tuesday night’s budget committee.
Earlier in the year Sheriff Casey Cox requested six new deputies and vehicles to add needed law enforcement protection to the county. The county has not hired any new personnel for road deputy positions since 1999.
Cox said there has been a 28% population increase over the past 20 years, but no new patrol deputy positions have been funded since 1999.
At the county’s May 14 budget meeting, Cox changed his request to three positions and said he would like for the employees to have the ability to sell back 40 hours of their accrued vacation time; have $40,000 of overtime funds added to the county jail budget; and $80,000 to the sheriff’s budget to help reduce excessive comp-time hours that have accumulated.
Charles Seiber, 4th District commissioner, moved to give two new deputy positions.
Wendell Wilson, 6th District commissioner supported the motion but then withdrew his support after Seiber clarified it was for the deputies only and not new vehicles or any overtime funds.
Seiber said, “I wouldn’t care to give more, but I won’t vote to raise taxes. I’ll vote no. We may have leftover funds at the end. We could look at it then.”
Rebecca Stone 3rd District commissioner and budget committee chairwoman agreed and said, “If we finish it (the budget) and have funds left we can always add to the request.”
During lengthy discussion, James Blalock, 8th District commissioner, said, “They’ve gotten nothing in 20 years … What’s $500,000 to protect citizens of Cumberland County? He needs some help. No little Band-Aid. It’s a small amount to what they really need.”
Blalock and John Patterson, 9th District commissioner, both said they would be willing to support a tax increase to fund the public safety departments for their requests for public safety.
Wilson moved to add two deputies with two new additional cars, $60,000 in overtime funds for the sheriff’s office, $20,000 in overtime funds for the jail budget and for the overtime funds to be available quarterly.
Cox said, “I’m good with that.”
Hyder supported the motion.
Sue York, 1st District commissioner, asked where Cox would place the deputies.
Cox said on the night shift.
Cumberland County Finance Director Nathan Brock reported the cost including a new vehicle and benefits per deputy position is $87,826.01.
He said the overtime of $80,000 brings the total to roughly $260,000 for the two new deputies.
The committee agreed to pull the vehicles out of the regular budget and put those in with the other five police vehicles to be purchased in the capital outlay purchases.
Cox’s request had two new positions on night shift and one on the middle shift.
Patterson said, “If the sheriff needs three deputies, the county should at least give him that and all of the supplies they need. What do we do at the end of the day? If the sheriff needs three deputies at a minimum, we need to give him that. We continue to deny? We’re working backwards with a pot of funding, and that is backward. We have to meet the needs of the citizens. If they need three, then we need to give it to him.”
Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner, said, “We haven’t given a new deputy in 20 years. At least we are trying.”
Patterson encouraged the commissioners to vote no on the motion for two so they could make a new motion to give the department the three they had requested.
Patterson and Blalock voted no; the remaining members voted in favor of the two deputies and overtime funds, so the motion passed in a 7-2 vote.
Cox thanked the committee and said, “At least there is being a positive effort being made.”
He added, “It’s a step in right direction. If you have anything at the end, please look at the request again.”
Linda Clark, Cumberland County resident, encouraged the committee to consider the full overtime funding request that would help the department.
Later in the meeting, Blalock said, “You need to think about what you’re doing here. By keeping the property tax low, you’re not going to get new industry here. You don’t have the work force. By keeping it low, you bring nothing in here but retirees … You’re inviting more retirees in by keeping the property taxes low.”
Stone said, as Patterson had pointed out earlier in the meeting, the retirees and people moving here from other areas are the ones paying a significant portion of the property taxes.