• 63°

Sheriff gets funds to cover expenses until Dec. 31

New contract could increase Lawless’ budget next year

 

A last-minute appropriation of more than $162,000 to the sheriff’s office will pay the bills through the end of the year.

But with a new three-year FOP contract just ratified, meeting next year’s expenses remains the challenge for Sheriff Jeff Lawless.

At its Thursday meeting, Lawrence County Commissioners appropriated $162,475 from the one-half percent sales tax to the sheriff’s budget, leaving about $1,000 left in that fund that goes to the sheriff, EMS and Emergency Management Agency.

“From the numbers I see, we will make it through to the end of the year without making any more layoffs,” Lawless said

Recently Lawless laid off two part-time employees following the resignation this summer of two additional workers.

“I will not be able to replace those two employees who resigned,” he said. “I’ve been filling in with overtime. I would like to get those two positions replaced.”

But if the county commissioners maintain the same $3,302,254 budget Lawless had this year in 2013, funding an almost 2 percent raise for FOP union employees could mean more layoffs.

“If they give me the same budget, I will be forced to make major cuts,” he said. “The cost of everything is going up, food, medicine, gas.”

Commissioners also on Thursday approved the latest FOP contract with the sheriff’’s office that will give union employees a 25-cent per hour raise for 2013 and 2014 and a 30-cent per hour raise in 2015. Originally the 2013 25-cent raise was to be retroactive to January 2012. However the union agreed to take a $500 bonus for 2012 instead of the raise.

“That is saving a ton of money,” Lawless said.

Raises for the first two years will give the 34 employees under that contract an individual increase of $520 each year, costing the sheriff’s office a total of $622 per employee each year after retirement and other benefits are added in.

The 30-cent per year raise will give employees a $624 raise each year costing the sheriff’s office $745 per employee.

Last week Lawless had called the financial situation at his office desperate, even saying it was possible any more layoffs could force the closure of the Lawrence County Jail.

“We have averted that for several months,” the sheriff said this morning. “I say ‘Thank God.’ I can take a deep breath and relax through the end of the year. All parties worked hard to resolved this.”