SIOUX CITY | The Woodbury County Board on Tuesday rejected a proposal to increase staffing at the county jail, where the inmate population has grown. The county sheriff says he’ll be forced to spend money on overtime.
The move was part of ongoing county budget talks. The discussions determine what amount of money is given to county departments, and whether property taxes will go up to cover expenses if cuts aren’t made.
Sheriff Dave Drew is asking for money to hire two jailers and three nurses for the facility. The jail, at 407 Seventh St., opened in 1987 with six jailers per shift to cover fewer than 100 inmates. It sometimes has as many as 200 inmates today.
Drew said six jailers currently work on each of the three daily shifts, but eight are needed. There also are two full- and one part-time nurses, which covers 15 hours from Monday-Friday.
Jail Administrator Lt. Lynette Phillips said overnight and weekend hours are unstaffed by nurses. That means nurses aren't on hand to deliver prescription medicines and assess minor medical conditions. Many inmates are taken to a hospital instead.
On Tuesday, County Board members reviewed Drew’s proposal and rejected the five jail positions, saving $116,000 for the jailers and $210,000 for the nurses.
They also approved buying six new patrol cars rather than 14, saving $176,000. Other expense cuts took place on travel expenses and utility costs proposed by Drew.
Board members Jackie Smith, Larry Clausen and George Boykin, all of Sioux City, said they understand the sheriff wants more personnel. But they said they are trying to be stewards of taxpayer money, and the reality is that the county is looking at a budget deficit for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
"We've only got a finite amount of dollars," Clausen said.
The County Board on Jan. 7 began the process of setting the 2014-15 fiscal year budget. With the expenses initially submitted by department directors, the proposed budget has $3.5 million more in expenses than revenues.
The board members spent more than 2.5 hours reviewing Drew's budget Tuesday. Combined with a first look at the sheriff's $9 million budget last week, they spent nearly four hours on Drew's budget. By comparison, they spent less than 2.5 hours combined in reviewing six other department budgets over the last two weeks.
In the first session with Drew, board members were critical of the proposed $49,979 in overtime costs for the patrol division and $69,863 for investigations.
Drew said he'll look to circumvent the insufficient number of jailers by a plan to have each person work a 12-hour rather than eight-hour shift. That will increase the amount of overtime pay jailers receive, but Drew said he doesn't see a better solution since he isn't allowed to add more people.
The Country Board also Tuesday cut $500 in mileage expenses from their proposed $640,000 board administration budget, made no cuts to the $1.6 million County Treasurer budget and made $6,300 in cuts to the $2.3 million County Attorney budget.