By SEAN MARLIN
Pleading that his office is understaffed, Hays County Sheriff Tommy Ratliff prevailed upon the county commissioners to seek federal stimulus money for the hiring of 12 new deputies. Commissioners concurred last week, asking Ratliff to put together an application package for their later approval.
Many of the federal stimulus programs are just now being rolled out to local level governments. Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) congratulated the Hays County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) for “ … jumping on this. We are one of the fastest growing counties in the country and we need more officers on the street.”
Ratliff told commissioners that the cost to equip train and pay a dozen deputies would come to nearly $1.3 million. However, Ratliff added, the procurement of available stimulus money would bring the county’s cost down to about $500,000. One grant would cover deputy salaries for three years. That grant would be contingent on the county hiring all 12 deputies. An additional $60,000 grant would help pay for the initial training and equipping of the new deputies.
“Absolutely, we are understaffed,” Ratliff said. “We have 111 commissioned officers. The Texas state average is 1.9 officers per thousand (citizens). Minus San Marcos and Kyle, the county has a population of around seventy five thousand. That’s according to 2007 numbers. I would need 35 to 40 new officers to get to where we need to be.”
The federal grant is meant to spur quick hiring of law enforcement, with an application deadline of April 14. The government takes 90 days to process the application, meaning the county wouldn’t know until the middle of July if the application has been approved. Then, the HCSO has to advertise and interview the candidates. Ratliff said HCSO likely wouldn’t hire until late this year, so the extra cost wouldn’t likely hit until Fiscal Year 2010.
Commissioners were concerned about trying to fit the extra $500,000 into the next budget. Additionally, commissioners wondered if the entire dozen officers could be hired in the time allowed under the grant. However, the court gave the HSCO the go ahead to finalize the grant application. The court will work out details at a later meeting.
The court also approved the creation of a new sergeant in the HCSO.
The standard patrol shift consists of twenty-two deputies. Ratliff said that because of the technical nature of this job, leaving the current sergeant in charge of so many officers simultaneously is “Putting him in a position for failure.”
The government grant would not help pay for the new sergeant, as it is specifically allocated for the hiring of new deputy level positions. But, from salary savings within the HCSO, Ratliff said, the promotion wouldn’t come at any extra cost to the county this year.
The court unanimously approved the new sergeant position.Email | Print