FORT WAYNE – The Allen County Council rejected a request Thursday from jail officials asking for more money to hire nine additional confinement officers.
Council members also learned the county will not face a budget shortfall next year for the second consecutive year.
The jail recently had 10 open positions that had been filled, and the requested $158,364 would have paid wages through the end of the year for additional officers yet to be hired.
The staffing shortage and turnover have been an ongoing concern, said Sgt. A.J. Pape, personnel director for the Allen County Sheriff’s Department.
The council asked Pape to come back with the request when figuring next year’s budget.
Right now the numbers are down by one hundred at the jail, and lock-up numbers are down, as well, said Council President Darren Vogt, R-3rd.
The (department) has not been fully staffed for a while and now they are, so we need to think this through, Vogt said.
In addition, the number of inmates expected to be kept locally rather than sent to a state prison is now expected to be much lower than what was originally projected following a new state law that takes effect July 1.
The law is aimed at sending more low-level, nonviolent offenders to local community corrections programs and jails instead of to state prisons.
We were told we would be housing about 530 more inmates and that number now looks to be more like 135, Vogt said, so let’s not get in a panic mode.
While the jail definitely needs extra officers for safety reason, we are not in a panic mode, said Jeremy Tinkel, spokesman for the sheriff’s department. We are trying to operate at the optimum level and be proactive instead of reactive, but it is not a crisis.
The turnover is largely the result of confinement officers using the position as a steppingstone to a career in law enforcement, Pape said.
Some make it a career, but not many, he said. We usually run anywhere from three to 15 officers short with the turnover.
With the recent spate of hiring to fill open positions, the department has compiled an eligibility list of possible hires when needed, he said.
Other counties look to hire Allen County workers because they are excellent officers, Pape said.
We have good people who want to be police officers and other counties seek them out, he said.
In addition, several officers have been reassigned to smaller communities such as Huntertown, Leo-Cedarville and Woodburn, Pape said.
Even though the county will continue to lose revenue because of property tax caps, 2015 will be the second consecutive year that the county will not face a budget shortfall.
Projected revenues for 2015 could outweigh projected expenses by about $2 million.
I was surprised, County Auditor Tera Klutz said. I think it may be due to an uptick in the economy and more revenue from income taxes.
In explaining the breakdown of projected revenue for 2015, Chief Deputy Auditor Nick Jordan cautioned that figures could change, including the estimated 3 percent increase in income tax revenues.
There are some circumstances pending out there that could have significant impact on the expected revenues, Jordan said.
Allen County Council members will begin planning next year’s budget for the county’s 33 departments in July.