GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Sheriff Darryl Daniels presented his budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year to the Board of County Commissioners, and he’s asking for a nearly 10% increase.
Despite COVID-19 ravaging local sales taxes around the county, which heavily contribute to revenues for the county’s government, a budget for the next fiscal year needs to be made. Clay’s constitutional officers presented their budgets to the BCC during a meeting held Tuesday, July 14, and while most budgets were as expected, Daniels’ saw the largest increase.
“I don’t think [everyone might understand] that there’s a shortage in sales tax revenue that will have an impact on the county,” Daniels said in reference to the coronavirus. “Loss will have to be made up by robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Daniels said he recognizes his budget and its requests don't necessarily come at a great time. He also said that his office is about public safety and he’s going to ask for what he needs to keep the public safe. His budget priorities consisted of things like increased staffing levels, a continued leverage of new technology and maintenance for buildings that need it.
Daniels requested $47,484,182 for law enforcement, $14,575,235 for detention, $2,060,388 for judicial services, $1,993,570 for special revenue and $3,640,300 for building maintenance. The is a grand total of $69,753,676, which is a 9.22% compared to last year’s budget.
The increase in law enforcement cops comes from a struggle the Clay County Sheriff’s Office has had for years: staffing levels.
“Current staffing levels go by a ratio of 1,000 citizens to one deputy and it’s 1.31 [here],” Daniels said. “Last time I was up here, it was in the neighborhood of 1.47. As the community grows and deputy staffing does not, disparity will continue to increase.”
Daniels said CCSO is always trying to chase the state average of 1.71 but understands that’s not realistic at this point. He just wants to keep up the status quo of 1.31 for now, which will require more officers to be hired. Part of that struggle is the salaries of CCSO officers.
CCSO’s starting salary is $38,000, which Daniels said is less than salaries paid by the St. Johns and Jacksonville sheriff’s office.
“For Clay County, CCSO deputies are the lowest-paid law enforcement employees in the county, but we do the lion’s share of law enforcement work in the county.”
Daniels explained the jobs he would like to fill with this new budget are as follows: five domestic violence deputy sheriffs; four deputy sheriffs; four public service aides; two registered nurses for detention; one building maintenance technician; and, one records specialist. Most of these jobs would come out of the budget but the five domestic violence deputy sheriffs would have 75% of their pay covered by a grant for three years with the county paying the other 25%.
As far as maintenance, Daniels would like to upgrade the office’s computer dispatch system for $2 million and purchase a new piece of software that streamlines processes through a special interface for $460,000. He said this could eliminate the need for three would-be employees.
There’s a $250,000 inmate medical cost, an $84,000 renewal for a court security contract, $79,000 for communications services, $74,000 for annual wellness evaluations for officers, $69,000 for liability and auto insurance increases and finally, $58,000 for jail cleaning, sanitization and supplies.
Daniels wanted to present his budget to start the conversation. Because of that, the BCC said it will take action at later meetings.
“When it comes to...needs and wants...there are wants out there,” Daniels said. “It’s not a problem for me to strike through them but eventually, we’ll get to where those turn into needs. We’re in a time where we need the needs taken care of...so maybe this isn’t a good time for wants. I understand that.”