Adams County sheriff responds to ‘busted budget’ comment about pay raises

Published 5:53 pm Friday, September 9, 2022

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Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said he feels compelled to defend his department and other employees after a county official said raises “busted” the budget.

“The fact of the matter is that raises alone didn’t cause the county to go broke and the statements made against the agencies claimed to have caused this is certainly inaccurate,” Patten said in a five-page letter sent to The Democrat. “I am sure that if you took a deeper dive, you will find that it wasn’t just the well-deserved raises that caused this issue.”

On Tuesday, County Administrator Angie King told supervisors that the E911 department went over budget by $350,000 while the sheriff’s department was $700,000 over budget.

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“We’re in a bad situation. … The budget is busted,” she said, citing pay raise issues for employees as part of the problem.

Board President Wes Middleton said the board only has two options, cut the budget or raise taxes—which he added wouldn’t be fair to taxpayers who are already struggling in this economy. “You want raises, you want a new dispatch office and you want a new jail but where’s the money coming from?” he said.

In his letter on Friday, Patten pushed back about the statements.

“I cannot remain silent when statements are being made about people who receive so little pay for the hard work they do,” he wrote. “Department and Agency heads fight daily trying to keep underpaid staff happy for retention reasons and to ensure services are still provided. It’s hard to do that when statements like this are made. Statements like these have a tendency to create hostile work environments. Suddenly other jobs start to look a lot better to an employee tittering on the edge of leaving when they feel unappreciated.”

Patten compared the pay for employees at the sheriff’s department to area agencies, saying that starting pay at the Gloster Police Department is $18 per hour and at the prison on U.S. 84, $18.50 per hour.

“Yet, even with the raises, our jailers are on par with Wendy’s (employees) minus the benefits,” he wrote, adding, “As of Oct. 1st, if raises aren’t given, we will not only be one of the lowest paid in the state for an agency our size, but we will also be the lowest paid in Adams County.”

The sheriff also said raises alone are not the cause of the county’s financial woes. He cited the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, gas price increases and inflation.

“For the past two years, we have received notification of rate hikes for essential services being provided. This includes everything from supplies, uniforms, food, gas, internet, etc. We have been requesting an increase in budget in the amount of $700,000 to cover the rate increases and did not receive an increase. The two largest reasons for this request were because of increases in food costs and gas costs,” he wrote. While the department’s total budget is $4.8 million, Patten said anticipated rate increases for the upcoming year will push the expenses $540,000 over budget.

He also questioned the county’s efficiency in paying bills and invoices, saying that items ordered in the prior fiscal year, issued a P.O. and not delivered, are being paid for with funding from the current fiscal year budget. Moreover, he said, county administrators are not taking advantage of programs such as the Win Job Center’s OTJ Program, which could reimburse the county for up to 640 hours of a new recruit’s salary.

“It’s hard to hear someone talk about saving money when you will not go after the money that is already available and on the table,” he wrote.

While Patten said he is thankful the supervisors have made a commitment to pay employees a living wage, and that they have pushed through items such as emergency vehicle purchases, he wants to reiterate that he believes raises given to employees have been an investment, not simply a budget-busting expense.

“At the end of the day, the raises given to all county workers was less than one percent of the county’s total $34 million budget. With the things that I see the county workers and first responders endure day in and day out, I feel like they are worth that and more.”

Read the full text of the statement here.