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Layoffs possibility at sheriff’s office

Cuts in 2016 budget could hurt staffing levels

With a reduction in his 2016 budget, Lawrence County Jeff Lawless is concerned he will be forced to make layoffs in his staff.

Last week the Lawrence County Commissioners approved a two-part budget for the sheriff of $3,159,585.43 or $27,210 less than the 2015 budget. However the section of the budget that covers the majority of his staff has gone down $93,160.

“There is no way I can sustain our current staffing levels if the budget is not made up,” Lawless said. “A lot of that is based on the 27th pay. We are in current negotiations and I don’t know how much of a raise, if any, for them.”

Every 11th year is the Pay Period Leap Year where the number of biweekly pays increases by one to 27 pays in the year.

Right now Lawless is unsure where cuts would be made or how many.

“What I would try to do is spread it out in the departments to try to maintain services,” he said. “I have asked the commissioners for a quick response. If I lay off early in the year I will minimize it. It is important to do it early. If I lay off three now, I am not paying them any benefits, PERS. If I keep those three on to the middle of the year, I will have spent that money.”

Lawrence County Commission President Les Boggs expects to add to Lawless’ budget, but throughout the year, not right now.

“I think last year six certifications of money were given,” Boggs said. “It depends on how taxes come in and every year we add to him. We’ve always covered the needs of our emergency services. I don’t see any difference in 2016. Yes, we are going to add extra money to the sheriff during the course of the year. We do every year and will in 2016.”

Lawless’ budget was increased in a fund to cover the cost of sending inmates out of county. Overcrowding at the jail has been a long-term problem with the state cracking down on the daily census.

Last year the county spent $444,767 to send prisoners away. This year the commissioners have given the sheriff $580,000 for that housing. However, the out of county costs only started in June.

“If you don’t have enough funds for out of county prisoners, then what we would have to quit taking prisoners to other jails or let them back out on the street or face the wrath of the state,” he said. “We have been working with relatively the same budget for 10 years. We have not been able to make any improvements. I can’t hire extra employees, can’t send people to training. We are going to take a step backward when we have had the biggest carryover in 30 years.”