By Charlene Sims, Journal staff
MOUND CITY – A year ago, Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend was wrestling with budget uncertainties as he prepared to move his department from the crowded one-story brick building on the northwest corner of the courthouse square into the new Justice Center.
With nearly a year of managing his department and the county jail at the new facility under his belt, this week he was more sure of what his department’s income and expenses would be for 2024.
On Monday, June 19, the Linn County Commissioners reviewed budgets of the sheriff’s office, the county fire department and the health department.
Sheriff Kevin Friend presented a detailed budget with narrative that outlined the duties of the sheriff’s department and employees. He said his department:
Operates the jail (which now has 56 inmates and with more staffing will be able to take up to 100 inmates);
Patrols 600 square miles;
Investigates crimes and other cases in Linn County;
Operates not only 911 but all communications with emergency services in the county, including police departments in the Linn County cities, fish and game, and highway patrol;
Checks on citizens in need;
Provides school resource officers to the schools;
Oversees security in the courts;
Served civil service papers; and many other duties.
Friend said that Linn County officers responded to more than 25,200 calls from May 1, 2022 to May 1, 2023. In 2022 the report rate was up nearly 5,000 from the year before, and in 2023 the rate is up 10%. The 911 system responded to about 6,703 calls from the same time period. It has remained steady through 2022 and 2023.
In the last 10 months, about $470,500 has been billed for housing inmates at the jail and another $9,500 for transportation.
Friend told the commissioners that, by 2025, the sheriff’s will need to increase staffing for deputy sheriffs, dispatchers, patrol officers, detectives, and jailers.
Friend gave a summary of the sheriff’s budget items for 2024.
In late 2022 and 2023, the sheriff’s office has undergone a lot of changes, said Friend. The office has occupied the Justice Center and found several costs that the office was unaware of at the time of the 2023 budget. Those costs will be included in the 2024 budget proposal, he added.
In 2023 the Linn County Commission budgeted nearly $2.38 for payroll in all divisions with overtime and part-time budgets secured. Friend said in 2024, the department would be requesting a larger amount to add four more jailers. The amount will be nearly $2.66 million.
Friend told the commissioners that the increase in staffing will allow the jail to add more inmates. By adding 30 or more inmates, the jail should be able to collect $800,000 in inmate housing costs, and he believes that estimate is low.
Friend said that a project for 2024 will be to provide a shift differential to the staff at the sheriff’s office working the night shift. This project will add $71,000 to the budget for the 16 staff members.
The out-of-county budget for housing has been drastically reduced, he said. In 2023, the sheriff’s department handed back $30,000 to the county’s general fund and assisted Linn County in remaining revenue neutral.
This year the department will decrease the line item again to $10,000 from $25,000. He said that what the commission has to remember is that just two years ago this was a $330,000 line item. This is a $320,00 decrease in this line item with the new facility.
Friend told the commissioners that there will be probably be a 10% increase in cost for liability insurance and some of that increase will be because of the insuring the new Justice Center.
Friend presented reasons for changes in the following line items, most changes pertained to the difference in size, number of inmates and added costs of supplies for the other departments, district court and county attorney’s office.
Some of the line items he reported were utilities which will increase from nearly $123,000 to $150,000; contractual will remain at $77,000, and capital outlay will remain the same. Inmate costs will remain the same at $25,000 because of the success of the inmate commissary where inmates pay for their apparel and other items
Fuel costs for approximately 2,500 gallons of gasoline a month and diesel for the generators will remain the same at $149,700; the training budget will have a small increase from $46,000 to $50,000; and the commodities budget of $120,000 will stay the same.
He reported that medical costs will remain the same at about $187,100, with $70,000 for the contract with Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas (CHCSEK) and $117,000 for other costs like emergency medical care and prescriptions.
Vehicle repairs will remain the same; inmate meals and kitchen budget will remain the same at $153,000 for a load of 86 inmates – a cost of $6 per inmate per day. Janitorial and maintenance costs have increased from the current $10,000 to $15,000; jailer payroll with four new employees will increase from $665,000 to $815,000 plus the $71,000 for the shift differential increase for night shift employees.
The commissioners tentatively approved the sheriff’s department 2024 budget of more than $3.88 million a $429,000 increase from 2023.
Randy Hegwald, who is county fire chief and emergency management director, also presented his budgets.
Hegwald said the main issue on the fire department budget is the La Cygne Fire Department moving out of the county building once its new station is built. The city pays the utilities at that shared station. Once the La Cygne department vacates that building, the county fire department will be responsible for paying all the utilities.
Hegwald, who only referred to the written sheet he had given the commissioners, pointed out that some items had gone down and others had increased.
Commissioner Jason Hightower asked Hegwald about some larger ticket items that he was projecting out down the road like tender trucks and fire engines.
“How much do we have set aside in those funds?” asked Hightower.
According to County Clerk David Lamb, the special fire equipment budget had $520,000. Hegwald told the commissioners that $50,000 was usually transferred over to the fund every year.
He said that some of the trucks listed to be replaced were used trucks to start with and were having maintenance issues.
For the fire budget, Hegwald said it was hard to predict how much volunteer pay or how much fuel they were going to use. He also said that the insurance was one of the things that keeps going up.
“A lot of ours is based on what-ifs, so we just have to go on an average of calls,” said Hegwald.
Hegwald said he did increase the bunker gear cost. On the rangers, they were received with a grant from Homeland Security and have to be returned if the county decides to get rid of them.
Commissioners tentatively approved a 2024 budget for the fire department of about $630,300. Initially pegged as a decrease of $22,800 from last year’s budget, County Clerk David Lamb in a later phone conversation said according to his figures that it was actually an increase of nearly $3,600.
The emergency management budget for 2024 is just over $153,500, an increase of $3,600 from the 2023 budget according to Lamb.
Hegwald said a major change he made was to put $10,000 in the special equipment transfer so it increased the entire budget 2.3%. That was mainly because the county will be forced to do something with its radios.
McCullough said he thought the county was going to spend American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for that.
Hegwald said that was up to the commissioners, but he just wanted to build that in.
Hegwald told the commissioners that emergency management was supposed to replace a SUV last year, but with the change in the department’s administration it did not get done. He said he was hoping it would this year. The money was in special equipment to use this year.
Hegwald explained that the payroll in the budget covered half of his salary and all of the emergency planner’s salary. The contractual covers the utilities at the office in Pleasanton and also software fees. Commodities are one that we cut down on this year. Contractual includes half of Hegwald fuel and half of the maintenance on his vehicle. Commodities cover office supplies for printing.
He said that on the capital outlay, the $7,500 is a grant that they can apply for every year. He said it was not applied for last year. It is a 100% grant. We have $7,500 sitting there from a previous year for community emergency response team (CERT). The trailer has not been purchased yet.
Special equipment had the $10,000 in case it is needed for radios.
On another line item specifically for CERT, Hegwald said that it had been used every year for personal equipment, but he had changed it from $7,500 to $2,000.
Lamb said there was almost $140,000 in special equipment for emergency preparedness.
The commissioners tentatively approved the emergency management budget for 2024 of about $153,500.
Linn County Public Health Department Director Amanda Snyder presented the 2024 health department budget of nearly $449,400.
Snyder told the commissioners that while the nearly $450,000 budget looks high, it allows for spending of grant money.
Snyder said that with the $60,000 in the capital outlay fund, she wanted to purchase a vehicle that would be able to pull their emergency trailer. Because the department does not have anything to pull it, it is only being used when another department can take it somewhere.
Snyder said that she would like to use it more often at events as a breastfeeding and changing station. She said they would also like to utilize it for flu clinics and Women Infant and Children (WIC) program clinics.
McCullough said that he would like to see more information before approving the budget.
Snyder is going to put together information about the grants the department recedes and what they pay for and send it to McCullough.