GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A budget battle is looming in George County between Sheriff Dean Howell and the five county supervisors. Last week, all five board members voted to cut off all overtime pay to the department with the exception of felony investigations. Halfway through the fiscal year, the sheriff's department is already $100,000 over budget.
"Well, it could be real serious is they don't start backing off the overtime and getting the budget under control. You could be looking at a quarter of a million dollars by the end of the year," Board President Kelly Wright said.
That's a quarter of a million dollars over the $1.1 million sheriff's department budget.
Meanwhile, the sheriff himself was working courthouse security on Monday because of the lack of funds. Despite the trouble, Dean Howell insists citizens will be protected.
"I'm going to see to it, if I have to go out there myself to maintain the public safety," Howell vowed. "The citizens of George County deserve that and that's what we're going to give them."
Supervisors maintain the budget woes began when Howell took office.
"Since I've been in office... I think this is our fourth sheriff we've been through, and we haven't run into this kind of problem since and we have the same things happen during the year," Wright explained.
For his part, the sheriff defends his budget, defends his spending, defends the overtime paid to office staff and deputies, saying basically, things have changed a lot in the county.
"George County is not the same place it was eight or ten years ago. The population has increased. We have more crime and I think that's one of the main reasons for the increase," Howell said.
Some residents agree, like Charles Holder, who works at Gitt Er Dunn Rental.
"This county has changed. Definitely changed from the way it was years ago. And the same amount of money isn't going to support all that's going on now," Holder said.
Meanwhile, supervisors and the sheriff will try and meet soon to work on solving the budget impasse.
The George County Sheriff'D department currently has 20 full time employees, as well as part-time reserve officers.