Ocean City Today

Commissioners scrutinize Sheriff’s spending request

Overtime first among many complaints county officials had with budget proposal
By Brian Gilliland | Apr 12, 2018

(April 13, 2018) Chief Deputy Doug Dods presented the Sheriff’s Office fiscal 2019 budget request to the Worcester County Commissioners this week, and with it details of the department’s plans for the coming year. In return, the document received harsh criticism from the board.

Sheriff Reggie Mason was not present at the hearing. He is retiring at the end of this term, which will be decided in the June 26 primary, since everyone running to replace him is a Republican.

The Sheriff’s Office budget request is often scrutinized by the board, since the department usually asks for much more than it received in previous years. While the department argues it’s short staffed and in need of better equipment, the commissioners have been reluctant to grant the requests because of financial concerns.

With the increased focus on public and school safety in recent weeks, and the sheriff’s deputies responsible for providing that security in local schools, the department may be able to eke out increased funding from the commissioners this year.

However, the board did not offer any changes to the request at this time. That will likely occur next month, after budget work sessions start up again on May 3.

Dods, who said he formulated the budget proposal along with two other deputies, asked to more than double what was allotted for overtime last year at $553,220, some $296,000 more than the approximately $256,000 that had been budgeted.

But the sheriff’s office exceeding the budgeted amount for overtime is nothing new. In 2016, actual overtime expenses were almost $468,000 and in 2017, more than $500,000 had been spent. Indeed, this year to date has already all but exhausted the budgeted amount for overtime, with more than two months left in the fiscal year.

Commissioner Chip Bertino asked Dods if it was a scheduling issue or a manpower concern that led to so much overtime in the department. Dods said it was court costs.

If a deputy is called in on a day off or outside of the normal shift, that work is performed at a time-and-a-half rate, with a minimum of three hours on the clock for the deputy. So, if a deputy were called to testify for an hour outside of his or her shift, that person would receive three hours of overtime, or the equivalent of 4.5 regular hours of compensation.

Dods also said working in the resort, especially during summer, was a drain on resources.

Commissioner Joe Mitrecic, who represents Ocean City on the board, was not amused.

Mitrecic said he was tired of hearing the resort blamed for everything, and noted he frequently saw Sheriff’s deputy vehicles parked together with the occupants engaged in conversation.

Dods said his duty was to keep track of where overtime money was being spent, and he was just reporting the numbers.

Commissioner Ted Elder said neither the courts or state’s attorney’s budgets asked for increases because of increased workloads, and so he wondered why the sheriff’s deputies’ time in court had increased.

Bertino also noted the challenges the department has had staffing school resource officer positions. Dods replied that, essentially, no one wanted them.

“Who wants to go to schools now?” he asked. “With social media being more complex, they’re now performing full investigations [by themselves.]”

Dods said making the jobs full time, with a complete compliment of benefits, will help with recruitment for school safety officer positions.

The commissioners are set to adopt their fiscal 2019 budget in June. A public hearing on the document is scheduled for May 1 at Snow Hill High School, starting at 7 p.m.

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