Sheriff budget meeting

Richland County Sheriff Steve Sheldon (standing) and members of his staff meet with county commissioners on Thursday morning.

MANSFIELD -- The Richland County Sheriff's Department presented a $14.7 million budget request for 2020 to county commissioners Thursday morning, a 12.8 percent increase over estimates for 2019.

It was one of three 2020 budget hearings commissioners conducted Thursday, also discussing the Common Pleas Court and the local Job & Family Services financial plans for next year.

The sheriff's department request is broken into three parts -- $7,558,986 for jail operations, $6,028,247 for law enforcement operations and $1,177,871 for the 911 emergency center.

Steve Sheldon

Richland County Sheriff Steve Sheldon discusses his department's proposed 2020 budget with county commissioners on Thursday.

The sheriff's department accounts for about 44 percent of the county's overall general fund. Commissioners must approve an overall county temporary 2020 budget by Dec. 31.

Those numbers reflect a 10.7 percent increase ($114,430) for the 911 operations, 6 percent increase ($471,149) for the jail and a 22 percent hike ($1,092,555) for law enforcement.

In the jail, the increase is largely based on the assumption the facility becomes fully staffed. There are currently 10 vacancies in the jail, according to Capt. Chris Blunk, who said it remains difficult to hire and maintain staff to work in the jail.

The jail was rated "compliant" by state inspectors in 2019, though three of the 59 standards it failed to meet were due to over-population. The total actual general housing capacity for the Richland County Jail is 234. There were 268 prisoners as of Thursday morning, according to Blunk.

It would cost the county about $600,000 annually to fully open the jail's third floor in 2020, which would reduce the overcrowding. All three commissioners on Thursday declined to pursue that goal.

Capt. Jim Sweat

Richland County Sheriff's Dept. Capt. Jim Sweat discusses the proposed law enforcement and 911 center budgets for 2020 with county commissioners on Thursday.

The increase in the 911 center budget is based upon contractual salary increases and also becoming fully staffed, according to Capt. Jim Sweat.

The increase in law enforcement is largely based upon a desire to purchase seven new cruisers, totaling $350,000, and $129,000 in retirements expected to paid out early in 2020, Sweat said.

The cruiser costs include new vehicles and all of the equipment necessary to operate them as law enforcement cruisers.

The remaining increase is largely due to contractual salary increases and becoming fully staffed in 2020.

During the budget hearing for the courts, a 2020 request for the general division totaled $896,360, an 8.8 increase over the $823,369 expected in 2019.

The vast majority of the $10.7 million 2020 budget request for JFS is outside of the county general fund, relying upon money from the state and federal government. Of that amount, the general fund's share is $346,798 which is a decrease over the $429,286 expected in 2019.

Budget hearings will continue next week.

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