MOUNT VERNON — “My people have stepped up to the plate to take care of their co-workers, and they’re to be commended for that,” Knox County Sheriff David Barber said following a union vote this week to accept furlough days.
KCSO employees belonging to the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police approved seven furlough days, which each employee will schedule before the end of the year. Had the furloughs been rejected, layoffs of several officers would have been the alternative.
The civilian employees among the 58 KCSO staff facing furloughs will be hit even harder.
“In addition to the seven furlough days, civilian non-union employees also face a reduction of hours in their work week,” Barber said.
Barber said he was troubled by the prospect of having to lay off staff after a meeting with the Knox County Commissioners ended without resolution.
The sheriff had been instructed by the commissioners to slash another $200,000 from the budget for the remainder of the year. The furlough days should produce a savings equal to that shortfall.
“It will help us to stay within the budget that’s left for the remainder of year,” Barber said.
He said layoffs could have compromised the safety of citizens of the county by reducing law enforcement protection.
“This will make sure we can maintain the same level of protection for citizens of the county,” Barber said. “The employees’ actions will prevent layoffs, and layoffs would negatively impact the safety and security of people in the county.”
Barber said he has faced difficult choices throughout the budget crisis, as his employees have made sacrifices to benefit the sheriff’s office and the county.
“My priority is to take care of my employees, because if I don’t, they certainly cannot take care of the people of Knox County,” he said.