Budget increase requests by agency
Agency // 2015 budget // 2016 request // increase // percentage change
Sheriff // $30,904,373 // $34,803,683 // $3,899,310 // 12.6 percent
Orange Grove Center // $0 // $250,000 // $250,000 // -
Humane Educational Society // $395,255 // $620,970 // $225,715 // 57.1 percent
Enterprise Center // $0 // $100,000 // $100,000 // -
Criminal Court Judges // $210,567 // $285,857 // $75,290 // 35.7 percent
County Trustee // $744,330 // $782,513 // $38,183 // 5.1 percent
Public Defender // $667,466 // $697,803 // $30,337 // 4.5 percent
Register of Deeds // $430,343 // $452,994 // $22,651 // 5.2 percent
County Clerk // $1,872,613 // $1,887,754 // $15,141 // 0.8 percent
District Attorney // $1,212,710 // $1,226,728 // $14,018 // 1.1 percent
Soil Conservation // $118,789 // $122,792 // $4,003 // 3.3 percent
African American Museum // $62,653 // $65,865 // $3,212 // 5.1 percent
Juvenile Court Judge // $7,260,942 // $7,261,388 // $446 // 0.0 percent
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond has a big ask for the county's 2016 budget, but he says he'll take what he can get.
During budget presentations to the Hamilton County Commission on Wednesday, Hammond requested a nearly $4 million increase to his already $30 million budget.
His was the biggest budget increase request commissioners heard of the 13 county constitutional offices or nonprofit agencies seeking budget increases from the local government.
And the next highest was a fraction of Hammond's request. The Orange Grove Center, a nonprofit that serves people with mental disabilities, is asking for $250,000 to expand its recycling program.
Hammond said he needs to buy new cars, guns, bullet-proof vests and computers. He also wants to hire about 43 new employees, 21 of which would be law enforcement officers.
"The state of the sheriff's office is not good when it comes to our infrastructure," Hammond told commissioners. "We have seen a slow erosion of our buildings and our equipment over the past couple years."
The capital expenses make up about $3.6 million. According to Hammond's budget documents, the jail itself needs about $1 million in renovations and improvements. New computers and other hardware are expected to cost about $520,000. And cars are slated to cost about $1.3 million, with another $279,000 going toward equipping them for police work.
Hammond asked for 57 cars in the budget, but Mayor Jim Coppinger said at the meeting he could expect about 28.
Add to that, he wants to fill 14 vacant or new positions in the patrol division, and he wants to add eight new school resource officers.
"Right now, we are short eight SROs in the high schools and middle schools. And we have no SROs in the elementary schools," Hammond said.
With the added SROs, all middle and high schools could have officers, he said.
Hammond says he also needs to add 14 corrections officers at the jail, which studies have found is labor-intensive due to its design. And he wants to add four detectives and a crime analyst.
Commissioner Joe Graham questioned Hammond about the large number of new hires, but Hammond said that's what he needs to get the department up to par with the population. He said he is regularly losing officers to other departments that can offer better pay. And he said jail corrections officers have an incredibly high turnover.
But he acknowledged he wasn't expecting to get all $4 million he's asked for.
"I just want you to know that this ship is listing, and it only gets worse year after year," Hammond said.
Commissioner Warren Mackey didn't say he'd support all the requests, but he said equipment was key for police.
"Morally, I could not support a budget that did not [provide safety equipment]. If you need equipment to stay safe, like those vests -- I think we've got to do that," Mackey said.
To cut personnel costs in the long run, Hammond is again requesting a near $500,000 increase to his administrative budget to initiate a "bridge plan" for senior officers.
The plan would allow for officers to retire at 55 then access their retirement before they were 62. It would require the county to increase its retirement contribution to law enforcement from 14 percent to 17.5 percent, Hammond said. But he expects savings down the road because senior, better paid officers, could be retired and replaced with entry-level employees.
County Finance Administrator Al Kiser said there could be more medical costs associated with the plan that need to be looked into further.
Coppinger and his staff will meet with commissioners on June 2 for a workshop to go over the budget in depth. Coppinger plans to present the budget publicly the next day.
Commissioners can vote the budget up or down, but they do not have line-item authority.
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at firstname.lastname@example.org, @glbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.