Betterton made the request in response to Judge Dean Fowler’s asking for input as commissioners prepare the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget for the county.
Much of the requested increase is for raises for employees of the department, who like other Upshur County employees have not had a raise in six years. He also wants to replace older, high-mileage vehicles in his fleet.
He is also seeking more funding for inmate food.
Betterton told The Mirror Thursday that commissioners were saying that a 4 percent increase recommended by local banker Jim Ragland to the county is a “good raise.”
The sheriff said that “a normal Cost of Living (COL) raise is 3 percent.” He said he took 3 percent and figured it “every other year” for the six years his employees have gone without a raise to come up with the figure he requested.
“If you look at it as a lump, it does look large, but if you factor it over the last six years (when they went without a raise), it’s not that much,” he said.
For the jail food cost, he said that he is taking into account that food costs will continue to rise.
In the current year budget, the Sheriff’s Office has about $1.8 million and the jail about $1.7 million.
During the current budget year, the court had to cut about $1 million at mid-year to balance the budget.
“I will not be considering a half-million dollar increase in that department. . . That would require a 3-cent increase” in the tax rate for one department, said Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner.
“We’ve almost got all the wrinkles worked out of our budget and things are going to be tight as it is, but if we adopt a similar budget to last year, we should be in good shape,” Hefner added.
Pct. 3 Comm. Frank Berka said he was not yet saying he approved or disapproved of Betterton’s proposal as “I’ve just done research” so far.
“In reviewing the past 10 years, from 2002 to 2012, it appears that the Sheriff’s Office has had a budget increase” of 177 percent for the office and jail combined, he said.
“During the same period in time, we had an increase of about 11 percent in population,” Berka added.
“We’ve got to look at the numbers. That’s all there is to it,” he said.
Pct. 1 Comm. Paula Gentry said that “ I haven’t really seen anything” and “I don’t want to make any comments or anything until I get the budget and see what they’ve done.”
Pct. 4 Comm. Mike Spencer said that Betterton apparently didn’t understand that the county was broke.
Betterton said that the County Court is now saying that the county is broke, “but no one is asking why they are broke.”
Judge Fowler said that he did not know whether the court will have received all the information it needs to begin budget discussions July 31.
He said he was waiting on some input he had requested from the County Auditor.