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Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office approved for additional funding
Ron Freeman

More money has been made available for salaries for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office after a miscalculation in the 2017 budget.

Forsyth County commissioners approved an additional $500,000 for the sheriff’s office at a work session on Tuesday. 

Maj. Tom Patton said the budget was not calculated at the correct number of hours worked by sheriff’s office employees.

“The salary budget for the year was prepared logically, as basically the sum of all of the salaries of the then-current employees plus forecast with whatever adjustments might be made,” Patton said. “The oversight is that about half of the sheriff’s office employees work a 12-hour shift, not an eight-hour shift. 

Patton said the sheriff’s office had made cuts to try to make up the funding, but was left with the shortfall. 

He said cuts in hours were a good start, but had some drawbacks.

“There’s an obvious quick gain economically for that,” he said, “There are a couple of disadvantages. One is it reduces coverage… the other is that saving is all coming from our employees.”

County CFO Dave Gruen said the Forsyth County Fire Department encountered a similar issue with the budget a few years ago. 

“What we didn’t see until we came upon it with fire, and this past year with the sheriff’s, in trying to examine what happened with the budget was when there was scheduled shift work, they end up getting scheduled to work additional hours above their salary,” Gruen said. 

Gruen said $560,000 was added to the 2018 budget to cover the salaries. 

Sheriff Ron Freeman, who took office at the beginning of the year, said the department did not prepare the budget. 

He said a $1.7 million overage from last year’s budget was explained by putting a significant dent in filling about 50 vacancies that had been previously approved. 

“There was a net of approximately 35 employees that had already been budgeted, funded for a number of years, but unfilled,” Freeman said, “but we’ve taken substantial steps to be fiscally responsible and that’s why we’ve been able to reduce the overage from a 2016 overage of $1.7 million to, even after adding approximately 35 additional employees, only having a [forecasted short-fall] of $400,000.”

Freeman said he still needs to hire about 15 employees to reach the budgeted amount and will continue trying to cut the budget to save funds.