The proposed 2022 budget for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office may be a slight increase from the 2021 adopted budget.
The 2022 proposed budget was discussed at a meeting of the Forsyth County Finance Committee on Tuesday, May 4, and reviewed by Sheriff Ron Freeman, other members of the sheriff’s office and members of the committee.
“We’re very aware that we’re spending other peoples’ money,” Freeman said. “We always have been and we always will be. We know that we’re a super expensive organization to operate, but we’ve got to be providing what our citizens want.”
The budget is proposed at about $54.4 million in expenditures, up from around $52.1 million in 2021.
In the 2021 adopted budget and the proposed budget, revenues were set at $2,008,300. The expenditures are made up of $5,000 in intergovernmental revenues, $1,875,300 for charges for services and 128,000 for miscellaneous revenues.
About $1.3 million in the budget is for capital replacements, with $1.1 million for vehicles and $210,000 for computers and dashcams.
“We requested that there be four new positions for next year,” Maj. Tom Patton said. “Two are for school resources [officers]. One would be for the second SRO for the new East [Forsyth] High School, which will open this year with a partial student load… there is also a middle school opening.”
No action was taken by the committee and the budget will continue to be reviewed until being adopted by commissioners later this year.
Patton said one SRO will be at the school when it opens this year and the second will come on in 2022. He said beginning in 2022, Forsyth County Schools will begin paying half the salary of new SROs.
Freeman said school shootings across the country have increased the demand for SROs to shore up school safety.
“Even though I had already increased SROs, [the school safety committee further] increased SROs as we made the decision to add a second one in our largest high schools and things like that,” he said. “The school system increased their [input] from just shy of $300,000 to $1.5 million, so, again, kudos to them for significant things we were funding out of the county [budget], they’re now eating up a particular piece of that for us.”
The sheriff said there is currently at least one officer on campus for each school in the county except for some campuses where there are multiple schools.
County Manager Kevin Tanner said FCS officials had given high praise to the SRO program in previous discussions.
“I’ll say to you sheriff, that when I met with the schools, they were very complimentary and said that they knew they had the best school resources officer program in the state and it was something that other schools look to them and look at what you’ve built there to try to emulate,” Tanner said.
The other two new positions will go to the criminal investigation division and court and judicial security.
Freeman said part of the criminal investigation employee’s duties will be keeping tabs on those on the sex offender list, about 200 of which live in Forsyth with others coming to work in the county.
He said the court system is also expected to be busy as cases resume after being paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which will require more security.
An increase in the jail population is also expected post-COVID, which Freeman said would lead to higher health care costs in 2022.
Freeman said increased gasoline, ammunition, vehicle maintenance and employee health care costs also contributed to the increase over 2021.