County Coffers

Sheriff seeking additional deputy, other staff next year

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Montgomery County Sheriff Ryan Needham is asking the county for an additional $119,000 to fund a new deputy, a security officer for the courthouse annex and a clerk to handle body camera footage requests.

Needham, who was among department heads presenting their 2022 budget requests to the County Council on Monday, said the sheriff’s office actually needs four deputies to fill out the ranks but that he was seeking just one for next year.

The department is currently down 11 people, Needham said, with some of the reduction due to officers completing the academy or taking medical leave. The department is participating in Thursday’s city-sponsored job fair at the Montgomery County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The new security officer would join the ranks of personnel who screen visitors to county offices. Construction on the annex is slated for completion later this year.

Public records requests for body camera recordings are currently processed by Chief Deputy Matt McCarty. The new reference clerk would also assist the jail nurse with inmate medical records. Needham said 70% of jail inmates have some kind of medical issue.

The department is returning $111,000 to the general budget. The budget request also includes a $70,000 increase in pension payments, which is offset with fees for summonses and protection orders. Not as many documents are being served during the pandemic, Needham said.

Additional money will be coming out of the fund as more than half of the department’s officers will become eligible to retire, Needham said, including himself.

“In six years, this department’s going to look completely different,” he said.

Next year’s proposed budget includes a 2% salary increase for county employees. The advertised budget amount currently totals more than $37.7 million, though the numbers have not been finalized. The county had about $30.9 million to spend this year and roughly $13.7 million had been spent as of June 30.

Amid the ongoing nationwide worker shortage, highway director Jake Lough said he is reevaluating the starting pay for employees, who can make nearly $3 per hour more in an entry-level job at the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The current starting wage for open positions at the county highway department is $33,500 annually or roughly $16.11 per hour. INDOT’s hourly starting wage is increasing to $19, Lough said. The department will also accept applications at Thursday’s job fair.

With local road/street fund revenue projections coming in higher than expected, Lough said the department will have the funding to pave streets in housing additions, which crews previously haven’t done.

The health department’s requested budget includes salary raises beyond the 2% increase for three employees. The health board recommended the higher salaries for county health officer Scott Douglas, health educator Samantha Cravens and administrator Amber Reed.

If approved, Douglas’s salary would increase to $30,000 from $25,910 in 2021. Cravens would be paid $41,000 from $38,643. Reed’s salary would rise to $55,000 from $52,725.

In the courts, Superior 1 Judge Heather Barajas said plans are still underway to add a magistrate in response to ever-growing caseloads.

“We are still working toward that, and I hope that comes to fruition,” Barajas said.

The additional judicial officer, who would be appointed locally but paid by the state, could help speed up civil cases by presiding over routine motions. The court will spell out the magistrate’s anticipated duties in the full application.

Superior Court 2 Judge Daniel Petrie, who took office in January, requested additional money for judicial training and juries. In-person jury trials were allowed to resume in March under an Indiana Supreme Court order. The court’s budget request is down $18,000 from last year.

Circuit Court Judge Harry Siamas was set to present his budget request during the second night of hearings on Tuesday.

The entire proposed budget is being posted on the county’s website and paper copies will be available from the auditor’s office, the South Boulevard County Building and Crawfordsville District Public Library.

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