Thursday, December 10, 2015

Public Statement from Cass County Sheriff Dwight Diehl

 Cass County Sheriff Dwight Diehl
As commissioners continue to struggle with investments made in the past by previous commissions, we hope they haven't lost sight of the good investments, our employees, which could soon be diminished because of a lack of vision.

A commitment was made to the public and employees of the Sheriff's Office in 2004, with a tax, passed by the public, to better staff and pay members of the Sheriff's Office. That tax allowed us to add staff and implement a comprehensive pay plan which would give employees merit pay out to 8 years. As the economy took a down turn, the salary plan was frozen and we lost 4 positions to cuts in the 2010 budget. The Sheriff offered to use discretionary funding in 2016 if a commitment was received by the commissioners to reinstate the 2004 salary schedule.

Employees at the Sheriff's Office continued to work hard, even with an average increase in daily jail population of 20% and an 11% increase in total incidents since that time. It should be noted that during this same time period, employees had their LAGERS retirement plan cut in half, while continuing to pay more annually for health benefits.

Additionally, Sheriff's Deputies continue to be required to carry holiday and vacation time on the books that they are not able to use because of limited staffing. The Sheriff's Office carry over time, reported annually to the commission, has been requested to be paid off every year using un-spent funds in our existing budget, which is anywhere from $200,000.00 to $400,000.00 annually, but is denied due to lack of county funds. The estimated liability to the county for this carryover time, ending in 2015, is approximately $600,000.00. The Sheriff's Office operates with approximately a $7,000,000.00 annual budget and because of good management, we have never overspent our budget, on the contrary, we have always returned any un-spent funds.

The county provides service to the citizens, some of the service is with the use of equipment, but most is with county employees. This year alone the Sheriff's Office lost 6 employees, each with an average of 10 years of service, to better paying jobs. A loss of 60 years of institutional knowledge is devastating to the services we provide to this community, and will take years to recover from. With no relief in sight within the budget, the Sheriff's Office should expect to lose more valuable employees.

And while we understand that we may never be made whole from the lack of investment to our employees over the last 5 years, we fail to see how going forward and not focusing on the best investments the county has, which is our employees, can be considered a positive vision.

Because the Sheriff's Office is dedicated to serving the public, we will still continue to serve the public to the very best of our ability with the funding appropriated to the Sheriff's Office.