By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Balancing dollars and sense: County's sheriff works to provide services with funds available
061507 COUNTY JAIL 1
Bulloch County Deputy Sheriff Travis Tuenge, right, processes an arrest while Dustin Marsh logs in personal property at the County Jail booking.
While most Bulloch County government department heads handle one budget, Sheriff Lynn Anderson juggles four different budgets  - for the Bulloch County Jail, the Sheriff's Department, Courthouse Security and the Bulloch County Drug Suppression Team.
    When Bulloch County Commissioners asked Thursday whether he could operate with a 10 or even a 20 percent budget cut, Anderson countered with a list of needs that meet bare minimum when it comes to providing service and protection to Bulloch County citizens.
    While the current jail expansions are funded by Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) money, the budget for the jail operation is sizable, the largest of his four budgets.
    That's because the jail budget includes salaries for personnel, benefits, inmate housing costs, food costs, medical needs and "anything to do with what the inmates need," he said Friday.
    The budget also covers utilities and fuel for transporting inmates to doctor's appointments and court.
    This year, the proposed budget for the jail operations is $3,840,000. Anderson has not requested any supplemental funds.
    The 2007 jail budget was $3,413,288, compared to a budget in 2004 that was only $2,110,158.
    The increase over the three-year period is directly linked to more crime, higher expenses, and having to pay other counties to house Bulloch county inmates due to the jail being overcrowded, he said.
    Currently there are 256 inmates, and the jail only has 106 beds. The expansion will increase the beds to over 390, but until then, Anderson is faced with finding places for the extra inmates to sleep.
    "We called 50 counties (recently) looking to house extra inmates," he told commissioners.
    When the jail expansion is built, operational costs should decrease since inmates won't have to be housed elsewhere, he said.
    A cut in the budget would be nearly impossible, he said. Corners are already being cut in various ways, including using "hand-me-down" vehicles for transporting prisoners - older vehicles from the Sheriff's Department that are still good for limited use.
    Food costs are lower than they could be because the Bulloch County Correctional Institute provides meals at a cost of only $2 per meal, he said.
@Subhead:Sheriff's Department budget
@Bodycopy:    The budget for the Bulloch County Sheriff's Department, which is different from the jail, includes deputies' and other employee's salaries and benefits, vehicle maintenance, fuel and departmental supplies, Anderson said.
    Vehicle purchases are paid for by SPLOST and are usually not included in the budget. While one new investigator position is included in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2008, no new deputy positions are budgeted - in spite of the need for additional deputies, he pointed out.
    The proposed Sheriff's Department budget for the upcoming year is $3,100,000 - up from $2,924,274 in fiscal year 2007. The budget for fiscal year 2004 was $2,509,631.
    Fuel costs and the rise in costs of supplies, utilities and other normal increases, in addition to the new investigator position - are what has driven the increase from last year's budget, he said. The investigator position is important due to the increase in criminal activity and additional work load for the existing investigators, he said.
    "We only have four, and we need more," he said.
    Anderson said he has heard remark made by citizens regarding the proposed tax increases, and defended his department by pointing out the service it provides.
    "I asked (a citizen complaining about possible tax increases) 'Do you want 'em (criminals) in your house or do you want 'em in mine?'" he said.
@Subhead: Courthouse Security and Drug Suppression Team
@Bodycopy:    The courthouse security budget is the new kid on the block. The mandated expense cost $130,100 in 2006. The fiscal year 2007 budget for courthouse security was $173,300.
    Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch proposes a budget of $180,000 for the upcoming year.
    Anderson said 80 percent of that budget is "salaries and benefits."
    "We have four deputies for courthouse security," he said. "Then we have  maintenance, computers, upkeep of the radio system and other expenses."
    The expense to the county is fairly new, following a deadly incident in Atlanta where a suspect killed several people in a courtroom.
    Anderson said the level of security in Bulloch County's courthouse creates a very safe environment for judges, attorneys and citizens as well as other employees.
    The Bulloch County Drug Suppression Team's budget is filed under "vice control" and is proposed to be $375,000 for fiscal year 2008. In 2007, the budget for this department - which includes salaries, benefits, and supplies - was $350,000. In 2004, the budget was $365,550.
    This budget also includes building maintenance, vehicles and computer equipment.
    None of these budgets are excessive, and to cut any of them would sacrifice the level of service provided to citizens for their protection, Anderson said.
    "In some departments, I don't think it would be very pretty," he said, regarding cutting budgets. "People expect, when you pick up the phone and call for a deputy, an ambulance, or a fire truck, one had better be coming."
    Anderson said he understood citizens not being happy about the possibility of taxes increasing, but said county employees will feel the crunch as well. "We all pay taxes, too."
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter