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RCSO requests $2M more for personnel
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The Rockdale County Sheriff's Office officially made its 2015 budget request, including a request for nearly all of the county's capital budget, to the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners during the board's Tuesday morning work session.

The total budget request is about $23.29 million with a capital budget request of $2.17 million. The only increases in the proposed budget over last year is with the personnel and contract services, $2 million for the former and less than one percent for the latter.

The third part of the budget, general supplies/utilities/fuel, will remain the same as 2014's budget, $2.35 million.

Personnel expenses

The greatest total of the requested budget will be used for personnel and benefits with a total of $16.55 million.

RCSO Chief Deputy Scott Freeman explained to the board that the drastic increase over last year's budget is due to the pay raises and other incentives being allocated into the budget this year. The additional money is not for additional personnel.

"The incentive plan, as the (RCSO) Sheriff (Eric Levett) indicated has been a tremendous success," said Freeman. "We're being able to not only retain good employees that are familiar with the county and know how to fight crime in Rockdale County, but we're also able to acquire deputies from other agencies that are looking to make a new home here."

The paying incentive plan, proposed in 2013, being absorbed in 2015 is for roughly one million dollars. Post 2 Commissioner JaNice Van Ness wondered why the increase was doubled that amount. Freeman suggested it could be due to possible additional overtime allocation and other fringe benefits, which include insurance premiums increases, and retirement.

"There's a number of different variables' coming into play here," said Freeman.

More security for the county

The RCSO is requesting at least five additional deputies be hired to guard the Rockdale County Courthouse for 2015.

It would cost $275,213 to hire the new deputies, a sergeant, two corporals and two deputy sheriffs. This total is not included in the original proposed budget for 2015.

The recommendation to add more security to the courthouse comes from the Georgia's Sheriff's Association.

"if this request is granted by the BOC, then that $275,000, once it's scrub for accuracy, would need to be inserted into the approved budget for the sheriff's office," said Freeman.

Post 1 Commissioner Oz Nesbit asked if these added security would also include the magistrate court and the entire judicial circuit.

"Anything that is judicial, yes it would include," said Freeman. "We have one deputy down at magistrate and I know we've had discussions with Judge Phinia Aten about the needs of her court having an additional deputy down there."

After County Chairman and CEO Richard Oden essentially requested a feasibility study be done to assess the security surrounding the Rockdale County Administrative Offices, Freeman suggested seven additional deputies be put in places around the county buildings.

The cost would be $345,205 to add the deputies, but Freeman stressed that this was done as a request from Oden and is not an official request from the RCSO.

Oden elaborated a little more.

"Last year, the state of Georgia passed a gun law into effect, and in that it said that anyone can bring a weapon into all common areas except the courthouse. That's where this conversation stems from," he said. "This is their best recommendation. This is not cut in stone."

Expensive capital budget

The $2.17 million request for capital money includes items like new patrol and crime scene vehicles, x-ray machines in the courthouse, metal detectors and RFID tracking system for inmates at the Rockdale County Jail.

The commissioners had some serious concerns about new portable radios that were listed in the proposed capital budget. The APX radios will replace current radios, which will not be supported by 2017, and Freeman suggested beginning the phase-in process next year because the radios are so expensive.

The $425,223 requested for the 2015 year will purchase only 97 APX radios. Freeman says the RCSO needs 290 to support the whole department.

"But, I will say this, we originally projected on the high-end number," said Freeman. "We do have a good number now and that will bring that cost down considerably for those 97."

Nesbitt made a point to mention that the county's 2015 capital budget is only about $2 million in total, which is supposed to be dispersed throughout all the county's departments.

The requested capital budget is about 39 percent less than the RCSO budget proposal from a year ago which was $3.58 million. The RCSO received at least 75 percent of the county's capital budget in 2014.