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Hall County Sheriff’s Office overtime pay rises

2013 allocation higher than past year, but lower compared to 2009-11

POSTED: January 22, 2014 12:33 a.m.

Though the Hall County Sheriff’s Office was able to trim its overall budget last year, it paid more for overtime hours than in 2012.

In the 2013 fiscal year, $1,465,113 was paid out in overtime. In 2012, a little more than $1 million was spent on overtime compensation.

“In these tough times we have had to do more with less, which can affect your overtime budget,” Sheriff Gerald Couch said in a statement.

The office said that in 2013, more than 20 positions were struck from the budget through both elimination of positions and not filling vacancies.

In 2012, the sheriff’s office was budgeted about $16.2 million in salaries, versus about $15.5 million in 2013. The 2013 budget also included the restoration of furlough days, amounting to about $800,000 in salary not paid in 2012.

“Even with the addition of the furlough days’ payments, we still remained under the 2012 budget,” public information officer Sgt. Mark Mitchell said.

Couch said he understood that the county was not yet in a financial position to allocate more funds to salaries.
“We look at many factors when establishing a yearly budget, including salaries and overtime,” he said. “While we would have preferred to have more funds allocated to salaries in order to give our employees a much needed raise, the county was not in a financial position to make that happen.

“As the county budget becomes healthier it would be nice to see the restoration of raises and other benefits,” he added.

The $1.4 million overtime amount was about $350,000 less than in the three years prior to the 2012 low: An average of about $1.75 million in overtime was paid to employees from 2009 to 2011.

Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Mecum said allocating the funds necessary to pay out overtime is a sort of guessing game, with variables that can’t be predetermined.

“It’s called a ‘guesstimate,’” Mecum said. “You don’t really know because you don’t know what’s going to happen during that year that would cause an increase or a decrease. You hope it’s a decrease.”

The majority of the sheriff’s office budget goes to personnel, said Mecum, who formerly served as Hall County sheriff.

“You try to give them enough leeway that they’ll still be able to do their job because they have to. People call and you want them to be there,” he said. “It’s the same way with the fire department. People are not concerned about budgets. They just want the service, and they want it now.”

Salaries are a little more than half of the overall sheriff’s office budget, which was about $30.2 million in 2012 and $29.8 million in 2013.

With time-and-a-half compensation running up a higher tab, overtime is a budget item that warrants scrutiny, Mecum said.

“The thing that you’re looking at, or what I look at, is if you’re having to spend $1.4 million in overtime, why not just hire people (at) regular salary? What’s the fair balance between overtime and full time?” he said. “You have to make a decision: Is it cheaper to hire more people and reduce your overtime? I think we have to look at that each year, not just for the sheriff’s office but all of the emergency services.

“I would like to see, as we begin to get into the next budget year, if we can’t alleviate some of that problem.”


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