Adams County sheriff asks to add $55K to budget

Published 1:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2016

NATCHEZ — Even after cutting several areas of the budget, Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten is asking for approximately $55,000 more from county taxpayers for the upcoming fiscal year.

Patten appeared before the Adams County Board of Supervisors Tuesday to make his budget proposal for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Approximately $20,000 of the increase is attributed to an increase in employee health insurance costs from the county switching to a self-funded plan from a fully-funded plan. County officials have said the plan will save them money in the long run.

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The remaining increase is for travel and fee costs associated with training jailers, narcotics officers and the special response team.

Some of the ACSO jailers were not previously certified as corrections officers, Patten said. With more personnel being shifted to ACSO’s new Heavy Enforcement Anti-crime Team (HEAT) and the rebranded Metro Narcotics team, Natchez-Adams Regional Counterdrug Task Force (NARC), Patten said specialized training is necessary for the current untrained officers.

Patten cut office positions and rotated personnel to work the streets, he said, to allow for more deputies on the street with the same size staff.

Patten said after the meeting that in 2017, the state would require sheriff’s deputies to meet mandatory training requirements.

“In the past, (the training) has been just whatever the sheriff wanted to send them to,” he said. “We are calculating those costs now and doing what we need to do this year to put it in the budget.”

More importantly, Patten said, “We don’t want our citizens to have to deal with mediocre law-enforcement staff here.”

“We think every citizen in Adams County deserves the best of our officers,” he said. “With (criminals) now targeting law enforcement, you need specialized units. With the spice and meth epidemic that we are dealing with, we need a focus on narcotics.”

During the budget meeting, Supervisors President Mike Lazarus voiced concerns about what looked initially like a more than $100,000 increase in the sheriff’s budget.

County Administrator Joe Murray and Patten determined that overtime costs had been duplicated in some areas of the budget. Murray determined after the meeting that the increase would actually be approximately $55,000.

Lazarus said after the meeting that he thought Patten did a good job with the budget he inherited from previous administrations, which included raises and promotions that former Sheriff Chuck Mayfield enacted in his final months as sheriff.

“For his first time (through the budget process), the sheriff did not go overboard,” Lazarus said. “He’s third sheriff I’ve dealt with as supervisor, and he’s done the best. He inherited a lot of that stuff, and moved a lot of people out of the office and onto the street.”