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Finance committee reviews sheriffs 2016 budget

FORSYTH COUNTY — As meetings for the preliminary fiscal year 2016 budget commenced this week, representatives for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office noted the agency expects to keep its spending plan under those of previous years.

Current projections set the county budget at $103 million for fiscal year 2016, with the sheriff’s office accounting for $39 million of that figure.

If finalized, that would be $2 million less than the agency’s $41 million budget set in 2013, according to Sheriff’s Maj. Rick Doyle. And it would come at a time when the county must find ways to minimize spending to balance the budget.

The agency reached its figure while hiring 70 employees, though that is not a net growth, as employees have also left.

County Manager Doug Derrer noted the millage rate is not expected to rise in the coming year.

The budget must account for new operations once the new jail opens next to the Forsyth County Courthouse, which debuted in March, though operating expenses are not expected to increase.

This drop in total expenses can be attributed to a restructuring throughout the agency, Doyle said.

“We’ve learned to do more with less by becoming more efficient with technology,” he said. “We replaced 10-year-old computers, so it takes less time to do things, and we don’t have to pay more staff for waiting for things to load.”

He said the agency has “taken care of some redundancy,” such as including animal control officers in patrol shifts instead of having separate units.

Shying away from middle management positions and standardizing equipment have also helped, he said.

There should be about a $700,000, or 1.7 percent, increase to the budget in areas the agency itself cannot control, such as worker’s compensation, risk management and health care rates.

When that is factored out, Doyle said, the budget rests about the same as last year.

This does not include merit salary increases to be given in fiscal year 2016.

Other additional requests included $800,000 to replace about 45 vehicles, which can range from a patrol car ready for the road or a bare-bone, unmarked car that needs to be equipped.

Also requested is $65,000 to replace desktop computers. Officials discussed the county’s decision on which type of aerial imagery software to use.