On Monday, there were 18 officers on duty in the Harrison County jail. That's six more than what are usually working. The sheriff wants the supervisors to add another million dollars to his 16 million dollar budget so he can put more deputies to work. Supervisors' President Bobby says, "We appropriated enough money in the past budget year to hire 25 deputies. Once he reaches that point and he needs additional monies we'll amend the budget."
Eleuterius says neither the sheriff's budget, nor the budget of any other department will be increased. "We're gonna keep him at the same level as last year with the exception that we are gonna follow what the courts told us to do to put the necessary deputies in the jail that we need to meet justice department regulations."
The number of guards on duty in the jail has long been a sticking point between the sheriff and the Justice Department. But Sheriff George Payne says with financial help from the supervisors he's hiring enough corrections officers to satisfy the federal requirements. Payne says, "We were supposed to hire 25 this year and 25 in the budget period next year. I'm very pleased to report by the first of September we'll have 31 officers on board. I feel probably by October first we'll have all 50 hired that will satisfy Justice on their inmate to guard ratio."
Payne says meeting the Justice Department's requirements is the last step in securing a jail that federal inspectors once declared to be understaffed and unsafe.
The supervisors are still number crunching, but they say it looks like the total county budget will add up to about 105-million dollars. There will be no tax increase, and the supervisors are trying to find money to give employees a three percent across the board payraise.