Passionate public debate

County budget hearings kick off with spirited discussion

A contentious budget hearing between the Warren County Commissioners and Sheriff Ken Klakamp concluded the first of three days of hearings that kicked off Monday.

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said that the 2018 budget for the Warren County Sheriff’s Office was set at $973,500, noted that the actual for 2017 was “well over $1 million” and that it is “looking like you’re going to be 10 percent over again.”

Sheriff Ken Klakamp and the commissioners immediately started to spar over revenue generated by the Sheriff’s Office.

Klakamp said the department generates civil income, criminal income, funds from the School Resource Officer program as well as reimbursed staff wages for certain functions.

He said the department would generate over $300,000 in revenue this year.

“You accuse me of spend, spend, spend, spend,” he said.

“You are way over budget,” Kafferlin said.

Commissioner Jeff Eggleston acknowledged that the department generates more revenue than other similar counties.

“I’m short of a deputy 194 of 260 days per year,” Klakamp said. “You beat me to death and the consultant (for the Early Intervention Program) beats me to death.”

He said that the department is challenged for the number of interstate defendant transfers it conducts but noted that extradition decisions rest with the district attorney. “You want to blame my office.”

Kafferlin said he isn’t blaming anyone and said that “all we are talking about is money.’

“(You) tried to make me look like a fool in the newspaper,” Klakamp responded. “The consultant does not have a clue what he is talking about.”

“My issue is this,” Eggleston responded. “Your budget is over $1 million. There is no other budget in this region that is anywhere near that” and that the office can’t make up the difference in revenue.

“Let’s admit it, you’re going to teach the sheriff a lesson,” Klakamp said.

“My job here is to be fiscally responsible,” Eggleston said.

“You don’t want me doing it,” Klakamp said. “(You) complain about everything.”

Single point of entry came up as a source of contention, as well.

“You just want to hire someone cheaper,” Klakamp said to Eggleston. “You don’t care about the safety of visitors” or employees. “You started this.”

“I appreciate your passion for your department and what you do,” Eggleston said, questioning whether it is an appropriate use of full-time staff to man single point with two deputies.

“All you had to say,” Klakamp said, “(is you) are sick and tired of trying to find ways…. All you have to say is your budget is the highest of any sixth class county.”

“It is,” Eggleston responded. “That’s fact.”

“Then take an interest and see what we do,” Klakamp responded. “You care about the Department of Human Services and you care about the jail…. I’m sorry I have to go off like this,” offering an apology.

“Overtime… you set the sheriff’s office up for failure,” he continued, alleging that the commissioner’s cut overtime pay from $33,000 to $12,500. “(You) allowed us 370 hours of overtime. Year to date is 559, which is substantial from prior years. That includes using comp time…..”

“The goal is to address overtime costs, period,” Eggleston said, asking about the fundamental roles of the sheriff’s office.

“We are not making money off your office,” Kafferlin interjected. “Your job is to tell us why that is a good expenditure to pass on to the taxpayer. (We) need to do something to lower the expenditure. We’re not the expert….”

“Just like the hiring process, you’re trying to dictate, you two (speaking to Kafferlin and Eggleston) are dictating to the sheriff’s office ‘This is what you’re going to do. Period.”

Kafferlin suggested state and federal law could be broken if “you just go willy-nilly hiring people. You do not follow the paperwork we need to. This is an irrelevant topic.”

“This all goes hand-in-hand,” Klakamp said, outlining a total of $287,000 projected in revenue for this year – including $147,000 from civil services and $78,000 from criminal.

Klakamp added that the county is recouping $750 per month from the use of a vehicle by the School Resource Officer program.

“That’s not making money for us,” Kafferlin said. “(It is) putting the charge we need on the vehicle back on the school district that is using it. I’m thankful for the SRO program. It does not make us money. It does not lose us money.”

Kafferlin said that there is “so much unclarity on revenues and expenditures” and suggested putting the revenues directly in the sheriff’s budget.

“Thank you,” Klakamp said. “I don’t think that the incomes coming in are being considered properly…. The other issue I think you have to take into consideration, the fees that are being charged, the majority of the fees are from 1984. (The) sheriff collects a surcharge for every civil process served…. Common sense dictates (it is) absolutely ridiculous what fees are being charged. (The fees) are archaic.

“I would certainly hope all of you stop and think about this,” he continued. “I don’t like being here and getting into a shouting match any more than you do.”

Kafferlin said the discussion is about how to lower the costs or place a value on those items.

“I understand that’s not in your control,” he said. “How do we fix the systemic issue?… I don’t know what the solution is. By law you have to stay within the budget and you’re not.”

They then discussed various issues related to feed and interstate transfers.

Eggleston said the issue wouldn’t be solved in a 30 minute meeting.

“I appreciate the work the sheriff does,” he added.

“We’re getting more and more and more warrants,” Klakamp added.

Eggleston said those warrants could be more cheaply served by a constable and said that “we’re just continuously taking on more responsibility with not enough revenue to support it. (It is the) same for single point.”

He said other courthouses hire a “rent-a-cop” at 14 dollars per hour. “We pay two full-time deputies $22 (per hour) to collect wallets. It’s not fiscally responsible.”

“I gave you a proposal and you didn’t want to hear it,” Klakamp said.

“(You) wanted to hire people to save money,” Eggleston said. “Why would we add personnel to try to get more (savings)?”

“You were operating on bad numbers our office gave you,” Kafferlin said to Klakamp.

After discussing SRO funding possibilities, Klakamp said that “I’ve already taken steps to get $22 (per hour) out of single point.”

“The issue (is you) could get someone else for less,” Eggleston responded.

“Jeff, you’re going to get what you pay for,” Klakamp said. “This is not all about court security. There are a lot of negative things that go on in this courthouse.”

“For the value of those sheriff’s deputies,” Eggleston said, “(They) could be doing something more meaningful than sitting at the gate. (They) could be doing a lot better work somewhere else.”

“We agree to disagree,” Klakamp said.

“I think single point has turned out to be a good thing,” Eggleston noted. “I want to find the cheapest way to provide that service to the courthouse and the community.”

Klakamp noted that the number of deputies has remained nearly flat for years.

“There are several things that can be done to improve. Some are already being done. The fee bill will be coming up the first of the year.”