BY JENNIFER CABRERA / OCTOBER 30, 2019
The county has decided to fully fund the requested personnel costs for the Combined Communications Center (CCC), which handles all 911 calls in the county and is jointly funded by the county and local municipalities under an interlocal agreement. As we previously reported, Sheriff Sadie Darnell went to the Gainesville City Commission meeting on June 6 to request that the city include about $470k in their 2020 budget to fund raises for CCC employees. After receiving no response from the city, Colonel Huckstep attended the August 15 City Commission meeting to make a second request during citizen comment.
According to Colonel Huckstep, the raises were needed because the CCC had 27 vacancies for 91 positions. They hoped that raising the starting pay from $13.82/hour to $16/hour would attract more applicants. Since that time, the Sheriff’s Office has used money from the open positions to attract some applicants with one-time bonuses, but they still have a shortage. At the August 15 meeting, Mayor Lauren Poe said, “The city has approved our tentative budget for the next year and so we did hear loud and clear but we’re, you know, sort of already approved the budget.” The city’s final budget did not include any additional funding for the CCC, but under the current interlocal agreement, the city automatically covers a 3% increase in salaries. Although this doesn’t cover the full requested amount, it will cover part of it—and it could possibly be enough to pay the city’s contracted portion of personnel costs, if the CCC continues to have vacancies.
On August 20, the County Commission discussed budgeting all of the requested funding but decided to let the county manager continue to negotiate with the city and the Sheriff. During the October 22 County Commission meeting, Assistant County Manager Tommy Crosby stated that the county had worked with the Sheriff to get the starting pay to $16/hour. At the same meeting, the County Commission voted to send a letter to the City of Gainesville, asking them to be aware that the Sheriff will again request additional funding in the next budget cycle to cover the increased salaries.
Every year, any funds that are budgeted to the Sheriff but not used are moved into a capital outlay fund. With all the vacancies, that fund has built up a significant amount of money. The resolution was for both the city and the county to reduce the capital outlay funding in the FY20 budget by about $147k each. With the capital outlay money removed from the equation, all of the city’s 3% increase can go to funding the raises.
According to Crosby, the actual cost of personnel services for the CCC “has been running much less than budgeted based on vacancies throughout the year,” and that the Sheriff probably won’t need the full amount that she requested, although the full amount is in the budget.
Sheriff Darnell said, “I was very disappointed the City of Gainesville did not contribute their fair share to increased wages for CCC personnel; however I am very pleased with the resolution by the County Manager and Board of County Commissioners.”
Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe said, “We are working with the Sheriff’s office on this matter and it will be addressed at a future city commission meeting.”