Fiscal year 2015 budget includes pay boosts, new cars for sheriff’s department

Published 6:34pm Monday, August 18, 2014

Employee raises, retiree bonuses and new sheriff’s department vehicles are all on tap for Dallas County’s 2015 fiscal year. 

As the county prepares to sign off on its fiscal year 2015 budget, Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard expects several immediate benefits. Ballard said the budget would likely allow the county to provide raises for all county employees, nearly $35,000 in total bonuses for retirees and six new cars for the sheriff’s department as a part of a two-year, lease-purchase agreement.

The county is currently planning to give a 4-percent raise to its employees, Ballard said.

He said the raises and bonuses are possible through unexpected revenue.

“We’ve been fortunate to find some additional revenue from a couple of sources we weren’t expecting,” Ballard said. “After looking at the revenues and expenses, it looks like we will be able to give retired employees some money and our current employees a raise.”

Ballard said the unexpected revenue stemmed from a building rental contract with Allstar Recycling and paying off a mortgage on the Department of Human Resources building.

The county will also further save money through attrition, Ballard said. With a number of employees retiring, he said the county would not fill some positions and increase responsibility in others.

One example is Marcus Hannah, who is in charge of both the juvenile detention center and Perry Varner Education and Treatment Facility.

Ballard specifically cited the county’s road department as one area where retirements have been common. The county employs more than 200 people.

“We haven’t let attrition hurt us from a service standpoint,” he said. “I know for a fact that we currently have less employees than when I became probate judge [in 2007]. I can’t think of any county employee we can do without right now; we are a lean machine.”

A bill passed in the Alabama Legislature and  approved by Gov. Robert Bentley on April 3,  Act 2014-429, allows counties and municipalities to provide a lump-sum payment through Retirement Systems of Alabama.

The bill’s text includes a specific formula for determining each employee’s bonus amount by length of employment.

The last retiree bonus came in 2008, according to Liane Kelly, executive director of RSA.  She said it may be several more years before the legislature passes another bill that allows retiree bonuses.

When Dallas County officially notifies RSA of its intentions, it will be one of about 300 entities that have already chosen to give a bonus, Kelly said.

“It means a lot to us and our organization that so many of the workers units have already decided,” she said. “It says a lot about the community that people live in.”

Dallas County has 55 employees that qualify for the bonus.

The city of Selma also chose to give its retirees a bonus through RSA earlier in 2014.

Dallas County’s budget will also allow the sheriff’s department to purchase six new vehicles for the second time in three years, Ballard said. He said the purchase is a part of an agreement to purchase new vehicles every other year for the sheriff’s department.

Sheriff’s department chief deputy Randy Pugh said the new cars would put his agency in “good shape” and allow multiple cars to be used as reserve vehicles.

“It’s going to make my job a lot easier,” Pugh said. “We certainly are thankful that the commission understands our needs. If we can get six more cars again in two years, we would be in great shape.”

The total cost of all six vehicles — Ford Police Interceptors — is $180,000 or $30,000 each, Pugh said. The cars will come fully equipped.

He said the department would use two vehicles as spares and retire others.

Pugh said the department has a total of 32 patrol vehicles, meaning the department would have replaced about 40 percent of its cars in three years.

He said it’s important to replace vehicles as frequently as possible because of the significant daily use.

“We look at our vehicles as our officers’ office,” he said.  “One car may drive 225 miles per shift.”

By law, Dallas County’s budget must be approved by Oct. 1. The commission has three regularly scheduled meetings before Oct. 1.

 

 

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