Limestone sheriff's budget approved for $1 million less than requested

Sep. 29—ATHENS — When fiscal 2023 begins Saturday, the Limestone County sheriff will have about $1 million less to work with than he had requested.

That means Sheriff Joshua McLaughlin will be unable to hire two additional investigators and four additional patrol officers as he had hoped, and will be unable to provide a school resource officer to the one county school that has none.

The Limestone County Commission last week passed a budget that included a 4% cost-of-living raise to all full-time employees. Departments other than the Sheriff's Office generally requested about the same funding as in fiscal 2022, and generally received about what they requested.

County Accountant Emily Ezzell said general fund revenue was projected to be $16,389,485 for fiscal 2022 and to date is $18,862,837. The projected general fund revenue for fiscal 2023 is $17,555,996.

McLaughlin requested $14.38 million in fiscal 2023 funding for the Sheriff's Office, jail and related accounts, and the commission approved $13.4 million. The funding for the Sheriff's Office, jail and related accounts in fiscal 2022 was $12.48 million. He requested more than $3.6 million for salaries and wages and was approved for $3.2 million, slightly more than was budgeted in fiscal 2022.

With almost $11.5 million of its expenses included in the general fund spending plan, the Sheriff's Office receives about 65% of that budget.

McLaughlin said it will not be enough for the additional investigators and patrol officers he had wanted.

"We just have to wait and try again next year," he said. "We're going to keep trucking forward and do the best job we can and serve our community the best we can. ... It's not going to slow anything down for us. We're going to keep doing the job that they ask us to do and what the community expects us to do."

In fiscal 2022 the jail received $2.78 million for salaries and wages. McLaughlin asked for $2.98 million for fiscal 2023 and the commission approved $2.95 million, about $40,000 less than he requested.

"I asked them to increase to match the hazard duty pay that's being paid to patrol officers," McLaughlin said, but that won't happen for corrections officers in the coming fiscal year.

The budget for medical care for inmates was $650,000 in fiscal 2022. For fiscal 2023, McLaughlin requested $950,000 for full-time inmate medical care, a request the commission approved.

"We would have medical staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin told the commission that a school resource officer was needed at Owens Elementary School. However, not enough money was approved for another officer. He said there is currently one at each of the other county schools.

Fiscal 2022 salaries and wages for school resource officers was about $565,000. McLaughlin requested $716,000 for the upcoming fiscal year but was only approved for $616,000.

"From my understanding, what they voted on and what they gave us, the only increases we got was for the inmate medical and just your general annual salary increases," McLaughlin said. "I'm sure that the County Commission is doing the best they can and as soon as they have the funds available then they'll take care of the things that need to be taken care of."

Commission Chairman Collin Daly said the commission generally is unable to approve everything requested by every department.

"A budget's just a set of numbers that you try to work through, and you want to be sure you can pay everything," he said.

Daly said urgent Sheriff's Office needs that arise during fiscal 2023 can be handled through county reserves.

"You always want to have a rainy day reserve so if they get in the middle of the year and they need two or three cars, we will always make a budget revision to buy them something they needed," he said. "We always work with them when they need something."

The county's total budget for fiscal 2022 was $45,373,578 with the projected revenue the same. The total budget for fiscal 2023 is $48,610,460 with projected revenue the same.

Daly attributes the increased revenue to new homes being built, new businesses coming to the county, and the taxes that come with both.

"As long as we're on the growth pattern we are, it will continue to increase," he said. "Naturally, as long as you're on a climbing hill, it's all going to go up because everything else is coming with it."

The general fund expenditures were projected to be $16,389,485 for fiscal 2022, which ends Friday, and the most recent reported actual expenses are $14,416,406. The projected expenditures for fiscal 2023 are $17,555,996.

— or 256-340-2460.