MOUNT VERNON — A grueling preliminary budget process reached its provisional goal Thursday. The Knox County Board of Commissioners presented a possible version of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office 2010 budget to Sheriff David Barber, who agreed to approach the Fraternal Order of Police union to see if they will vote to accept the budget’s requirements.
In this budget draft, FOP members will get their previously agreed-upon 3 percent raise and longevity pay. However, these gains would be mostly offset by a request for patrolmen to take 10 furlough days during the 2010 budget year. Employees taking furlough days do not work those days and do not get paid for them, but they keep insurance and employee status, and the furlough days still count toward seniority and retirement.
“What kind of assurance can I get from the county commissioners that there won’t be layoffs if [the FOP union members] agree to furlough days?” said Lt. David Shaffer, the union liaison for the sheriff’s office.
“We’ve worked together, we’ve found cost savings, and those savings are working,” said Commissioner Allen Stockberger. “We can’t totally guarantee that the economy won’t take a downturn at some point this year, but it looks good.”
Barber suggested that he, Shaffer and administrative assistant Jan Wasiluk meet with the commissioners on a quarterly basis throughout the year to keep an eye on the developing economy so that any changes or adjustments can be caught and responded to as quickly as possible. Barber said this would be helpful particularly since the provisional budget was cutting maintenance and equipment costs back drastically, while at the same time postponing any new vehicle purchases. This means currently vehicles will need extra maintenance, and fuel costs will have to be monitored closely as well, in the event of a gas price spike if the recovery should happen to accelerate.
The commissioners agreed and welcomed the idea of quarterly budget meetings.
With previous cost-saving cuts, measures and practices remaining in place, the commissioners arrived at a 12.5 percent budget reduction for the sheriff’s office, less severe than the 20 percent reduction originally forecast, and which some county departments did indeed endure.
Barber said that he would pursue getting a memorandum of understanding between the sheriff’s office and the FOP regarding the 10 furlough days. He said that as part of the agreement, non-union staff will remain at 35 hours per week, on 12-hour shifts, with no raise this year, but no furlough days. Barber and Shaffer said they will begin working out internal logistics of the preliminary budget if the FOP agrees to the proposal.
The officials were pleased that cost savings, a moderating economy, cooperation and hard work were paying off.
“It needs to be stressed that this is a result of the sheriff working closely with the county commissioners to maintain the quality of law enforcement,” Barber said.
A final budget, subject to quarterly review, will be agreed upon in January.