Bertie board ponders adding deputy

Published 8:35 am Thursday, June 9, 2011

WINDSOR – Bertie County Commissioners discussed here on Monday the possibility of adding one officer to the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office.

During a budget work session, the commissioners talked about the need for one additional patrol officer to aid the work of the department, but did not take action.

The work session began with Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb discussing the specifics of the proposed 2011-12 fiscal year budget. He said the approximately $19 million budget appropriated $1.16 million from fund balance and that the revenue estimates were more aggressive than previous budgets.

“Had we not gotten more aggressive with the estimates, the fund balance appropriation would be even greater,” Lamb said.

The manager said for many years the county was able to control spending and collect higher revenues to lower the amount appropriated from fund balance, but that likely was not the case with the 2011-12 proposed budget.

“My only request is that if you add spending to the budget, you get creative,” he said. “If you want to add a position, for example, you could delay it until next April. That way the current budget would only take one-quarter of the hit. It is possible you could delay the start of other new positions so that we do not have to increase the fund balance appropriation.”

Commission Chairman L.C. Hoggard III said he had talked with Lamb about public safety. He specifically mentioned the sheriff’s office and rescue in the county.

“I know we have done things to hold taxes and to help the school system and fire departments, but I want to be able to do something for public safety,” Hoggard said.

Hoggard mentioned the use of sheriff’s deputies from other counties during the recent tornadoes and floods and the size of Bertie County.

“I understand what Mr. Lamb is saying about the budget, but it is also our job to protect the citizens,” the chairman said.

Commissioner Rick Harrell asked what the possibilities were.

Lamb said he had spoken with Bertie County Sheriff John Holley and the sheriff was okay with the budget, but would like another position added which would cost approximately $55,000 for a full year with benefits included.

Commissioner Norman M. Cherry Sr. asked when Lamb felt the additional deputy should be brought on board.

“As guardian of our funds, what would you suggest as a timeline without affecting the budget – January or April,” Cherry asked.

Lamb said it depended on whether or not the board would consider delaying the start date of the dispatchers that were added to the budget.

Commissioner Charles Smith said he was concerned the crime rate would go up in the next year.

“I think the way the job situation is now, it is a real possibility that the crime rate will increase,” Smith said.

“I agree,” Hoggard said. “We are the guardians of taxpayer dollars, but we are also guardians of taxpayer safety.”

Lamb discussed the changes in the sheriff’s budget, but explained that over $200,000 of the increase came from a one-time use of E911 funds. He also said the sheriff’s office lost one position when all vacant posts were eliminated in a budget several years ago.

Hoggard suggested the board let the material “soak in” and talk about it after the public hearing scheduled for June 20, but before the budget was approved.

The board also discussed the need for fulltime paid county rescue, but agreed it was a move that would not take effect in the coming budget year. They agreed to continue their discussions about the matter.