Routt County Sheriff’s Office budget proposal totals $8.6M, includes $1M increase for staff
The Routt County Sheriff’s Office budget request for next year is nearly $8.6 million, with the most significant increase being fueled by bumps in deputy pay that have helped get the office close to full staffing in the last year.
Nearly 80% of the total Sheriff’s Office budget is devoted to personnel, with 40% on patrol and 38% in the jail. Across both, about $1 million more will be devoted to staff compared 2022’s budget.
Patrol personnel expenses are projected to jump about 17% or $600,000, and jail personnel expenses will go up 14% or nearly $400,000.
Deputies got an increase in pay in February following a countywide salary survey to assess how employee’s pay in a variety of positions compared to other similar governments. The survey showed deputies were being paid about 20% less than similar jurisdictions.
“It’s great to hear that you are nearly fully staffed,” Commissioner Beth Melton told Wiggins on Monday, Sept. 19. “That’s a huge change.”
“Nobody else can say that,” Commissioner Tim Redmond added.
Wiggins said they have a position open on patrol that could be filled by a deputy currently working in the jail, once he is able to fill that position.
The budget request also includes the addition of another deputy that would serve as a school resource officer, which would cost about $107,000, plus another $20,000 for equipment.
Wiggins said one deputy already works in this capacity. While they try to get to all the schools within the sheriff’s office’s jurisdiction, most of their time is spent at Steamboat Springs School District’s schools in the county, including Strawberry Park Elementary, Steamboat Springs Middle School and Sleeping Giant School.
Undersheriff Doug Scherar said adding this position would help ensure there was more coverage at North Routt Community Charter School in Clark and South Routt Elementary in Yampa.
“The ones here closer to town are getting a lot of attention, but North Routt Charter and South Routt Elementary not as much,” Scherar said.
Wiggins made a similar request last year that commissioners denied because there were seven other open positions in the Sheriff’s Office at the time. Commissioners said they didn’t want to tie up dollars in a position that would be unlikely to be filled. At the time, Redmond also expressed a desire to see a deputy working in this capacity spend more time at schools in more rural parts of the county.
Steamboat Springs High School and Soda Creek Elementary are within the city of Steamboat and have had a Steamboat Police Officer as a resource officer, though Wiggins said that position is currently open.
Wiggins also proposed adding a coordinator for Jail Based Behavioral Services, which include medical assisted treatment for those that end up in the jail with addiction issues. That program is fully reimbursed from the state, so Wiggins said the costs of the program and the new position should be 100% funded through a grant.
“I do believe the programs that we have are doing some good,” Wiggins said.
The Sheriff’s Office’s operations costs are expected to increase by about 19%, with most of this supporting technology upgrades. About $30,000 will go toward a new DigiTicket system that Wiggins said will not only increase accuracy of data reporting, but it will also be safer for deputies as the ticket writing process will be significantly shortened.
Wiggins also outlined about $17,000 that will go toward a new Flock Safety program, which would install a series of cameras around the county that would scan license plates to flag vehicles that may be connected to criminal activity or a missing person.
The Kremmling Police Department already has about six of these cameras in place, Scherar said. Wiggins said the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office and Steamboat Springs Police Chief Sherry Burlingame have also expressed an interest in using the system.
“This is not really an invasion of anybody’s privacy rights,” Wiggins said. “These cameras are not meant to spy on people or to try to figure out who’s doing what. Basically, it’s meant to help law enforcement identify wanted vehicles.”
Monday’s meeting was merely a presentation of the proposed Sheriff’s Office budget. Every county department is going through the same process right now. Commissioners will consider all requests and form the final county budget for 2023 by the end of the year.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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