Harrison County sheriff talks money with supervisors

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County Sheriff Melvin Brisolara talked money with the board of supervisors Monday.

The board is working on next year's budget and the sheriff is requesting a $1.7 million increase over this year's spending. But with the county facing tough economic times, that request may not be realistic.

Sheriff Melvin Brisolara said his management team has done a great deal to cut operating costs, including getting a handle on overtime.

Much of the requested increase is needed to hire new corrections officers for the county jail, which remains under federal court supervision due to overcrowding and under staffing over the years.

The budget talks also prompted a discussion about what to do with the jail.

"At some point, we need to come up and get off this roller coaster ride and see at what level law enforcement do we want to maintain in Harrison County," Sheriff Brisolara told the board.

The sheriff and his top managers met with the board to talk money.  He's asking for $1.7 million more than last year in his new budget.

"What we're trying to do is get a realistic budget where we don't have to come back to you all every year and ask for amendments," said Pete Moran, the sheriff's budget officer.

"For us to have a balanced budget and stay within our means of the county, the dollars coming in and dollars going out, there's no way we can do that and come up with an additional $1.7 million," said Board of Supervisors President Windy Swetman.

Much of the requested increase is to hire more corrections officers, positions that were approved in the 2008 budget.

"We're now back to where we were. We weren't able to re-employ those people or hire people as people leave because of the 1.3 loss we suffered last year," said Chief Deputy Landi Phillips.

"Booking, we're down a lot in the booking area. That's the booking desk that processes the inmates in and out. We're down a training officer, we're down a patrol officer. We're down dispatch," said the sheriff.

The sheriff says the poor design of the existing jail makes it more labor intensive to operate. Some supervisors hinted it's become a "money pit."

"Basically just spending more money because of the design of that building. Until we get to the point we realize and accept and understand that, hey, we've got to build a building where we can house more inmates with less personnel," said Supervisor William Martin.

"That's where your security staff is so important. If we're gonna just keep running it the way we are, we've got to get our security staff back to where it was in 2008," said Sheriff Brisolara.

Supervisors took the sheriff's budget request under advisement. They must finalize next year's budget before the new fiscal year begins on October first.

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