(May 17, 2019) Financial restraint was the guiding principle Tuesday, as the Worcester County Commissioners denied a third of two-dozen departmental staffing requests to trim roughly $330,000 from budget requests for the new fiscal year.
Human Resource Director Stacey Norton presented new and amended position requests from numerous department heads during the budget work session on Tuesday.
The first and highest cost request at $85,000 was from county administration for a project manager.
Norton explained the workload between monitoring existing structures and ongoing capital projects warrants the new position, which was voted down 5-2 with Commission President Diana Purnell and Commissioner Josh Nordstrom in support.
A trio of requests from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, including full-time school resource officers, was also denied.
Norton said school resource officers currently are part-time positions, with the proposed expansion increasing the salary about $13,000 for a full-time rate of roughly $44,000.
“The vision of the sheriff is to have full-time school resource officers in each of the high schools,” she said.
Norton said Sheriff Matt Crisafulli would reassign the three full-time school resource officers when classes were not in session.
“The Sheriff’s Office, as well as all the other departments, are currently facing a labor shortage and lack of quality applicants,” she said.
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic asked what other salary costs would be involved, with Norton responding that they would include about $30,000 in benefits and $16,000 in operating expenses for each position.
Commissioner Jim Bunting asked if the schools were not adequately staffed through supplemental help from the Sheriff’s Office.
“Yes, but not with the same deputy at each school,” Norton said.
Expanding the now part-time positions would allow officers to be dedicated to particular schools, Norton said.
The request died for lack of a second after Nordstrom made a motion to approve.
The Sheriff’s Office was also turned down for a requested full-time office assistant at a salary of more than $31,000 to help with backlogged paperwork.
Again, a motion to approve by Nordstrom failed to gain a second.
Pitching a third strike, the Sheriff’s Office was also stymied on a request to convert one court deputy position from part-time to full time for the same salary bump of roughly $13,000, with, once again, Nordstrom lending the only support.
The lack of financial support for the Sheriff’s Office elicited criticism from Nordstrom.
“What is most concerning is the lack of support for school security,” he said.
Commissioner Ted Elder asked Norton to confirm the number of personnel at the Sheriff’s department, which she said currently has 108 members.
“I think that’s sufficient,” he said.
Faring a bit better was the Department of Review and Permitting, which had one request denied and another approved.
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic made a motion to deny a request to reclassify a zoning inspector to a supervisor position with a salary of more than $57,000.
“We certainly don’t need more people supervising, we need more people doing plan review and … turning out permits,” he said.
Conversely, the commissioners voted to approve reclassifying an office assistant position to a permitting specialist, which represents a salary reduction.
Commissioner Bud Church said review and permitting is extremely backlogged and suggested making future adjustments to the department.
Environmental Programs was approved for a license permit clerk position at a salary of more than $32,000. Norton said that person would work with constituents and free up time for higher level staff to process permits.
The commissioners also signed off on a pair of summer interns for Environmental Programs.
Emergency Services was denied a request for an electronic services project manager at a salary of $75,000 to supplement the assistant director.
Emergency Services was approved for three communication clerks, part-time positions paying less than $10,000 annually.
The commissioners also denied a request from the Worcester County Jail to hire an additional correctional officer at a salary of more than $44,000, with Nordstrom the sole affirmative vote.
The Roads Department was approved for a handful of part-time grass cutting positions, with the Parks Department also approved for a pair of lawn workers.
The Library Department was approved for a part-time historian at the Snow Hill branch. A request last year for a full-time historian was denied, Norton said.
Mitrecic said trimming the fiscal 2020 staffing requests also saved more than $61,000 in associated costs for vehicles.
“It looks like we eliminated the need for vehicles in this request,” he said.