The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 20, 2012

Sheriff wants $533,000 more

By CARL E. FEATHER - cfeather@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Sheriff William Johnson, fresh from his re-election victory to a fifth term, presented his 2013 budget request to commissioners Monday.

Johnson asked for an additional $533,000 compared to the 2012 budget, but the request does not seek to expand the size of his force, which stands at 68 full-time and three part-time employees.

Rather, the sheriff is bracing for pay increases of up to 3 percent in 2013.

“I got all three (union) contracts coming up right now,” he told commissioners. “If I don’t give them at least 3 percent, it will go to arbitration.”

Johnson bases that assumption on the fact employees gave back a negotiated raise of 3 percent in 2008 in order to avoid layoffs. In the following two years, the employees did not receive a raise and they had 10 furlough days in 2009.

The sheriff also is anticipating an increase in the cost of inmate medical care. The department is responsible for providing care to inmates incarcerated by the state. He said the cost is expected to rise with the opening of the new misdemeanor section of the jail.

A gymnasium on the third floor of the jail is being converted to a dormatory-style jail that will house up to 40 inmates serving time for misdemeanors. The plan was hatched to reduce the waiting list for jail time, which can be more than one year. Johnson said about 98 percent of the jail’s cells are used for felons, including federal prisoners, who produce a revenue stream for the county.

Johnson anticipates medical expenses of $80,000, compared to $65,000 this year.

His request also seeks to replace the department’s aging Ford Crown Victoria cruisers with Dodges. Johnson’s proposal is to purchase 15 vehicles on a three-year lease-purchase program.

He said that each car, which would cost around $20,000 when purchased through the state purchasing program, also will require $3,000 in accessories, including bar lights and cages, that would be installed by department staff. That equipment from the Crown Victorias cannot be used on the new Dodge cruisers.

Johnson’s proposal is for payments of $140,000 annually for the next three years. “At the end of three years, hopefully, you do it all again,” he said of the purchase plan.

The sheriff said that the odometers of most of the Crown Victorias have more than 120,000 miles on them; a cruiser typically travel 30,000 to 32,000 miles annually because of the county’s large size.

Johnson said that the department is facing a “very serious automobile problem” and needs to address the issue in 2013. He said he would look for bids from local dealers before buying.