During the Jan. 8 fiscal court meeting, newly-elected Sheriff Joe Engle spoke to the court about the annual budget and salary amounts for the Perry County Sheriff’’s Department, revealing hardships the department will face in the upcoming months.
After a motion was made to approve the annual order of setting the maximum salary amount for the PCSD, Engle said that he wanted to further explain his proposed budget, as he wanted to let the fiscal court and community know exactly “what he has stepped into.”
“I feel like we’ve really been set up for failure under our previous administration,” said Engle, referring to Les Burgett, the former sheriff.
“Day one, when I took office I was at zero, I had no money,” said Engle. “I spent a lot of money out of my own pocket to keep this thing going. We have zero dollars. I have to borrow money from the state and it will be over the course of the first few months. I’ll be borrowing $275,000 from the state interest-free that I pay back in October or November, because in the following year we’ll have more money then we know what to do with. We have just got to pay the bills off.”
He continued, explaining to the court that whether or not he receives the loan is based upon Burgett’s payments from his previous loan.
“The previous sheriff has not paid his loan back. So, they won’t loan me my money unless he pays his loan back,” said Engle. “If he doesn’t make that payment, we’re just going to have to close the doors and everybody go back to the house and I’ll be the bailiff.”
Engle said that, on his first day of office, all of the computers in the PCSD were unplugged and stacked on top of one another with the internet cut off and fuel cards gone. Some computers were even missing, he continued.
In addition to technological issues, Engle said, the department has inadequate transportation equipment, stating they have no decent vehicles.
“We’ve got vehicles that have oil in them that hasn’t been changed since May and are 10,000 miles overdue,” said Engle.
Almost all of the vehicles, he said, have been driven for well more than 200,000 miles. Additionally, Engle said the department has already done more than 20 transports more than two hours away since he has taken office, causing further wear-and-tear to the vehicles.
The PCSD is also facing staffing problems, said Engle.
“We’re starting new. I’m probably the first sheriff, probably ever in this county in many years, that doesn’t have many staff staying over,” Engle said.
Engle told the community members attending the meeting that he has been working closely with the fiscal court and Perry County Judge-Executive Scott Alexander to ensure that they save money for the county and provide great services.
“It’s important for people in the county to see their leaders working together,” said Engle.
Alexander, Engle said, has been working with the state to attempt to get the new loan released earlier and Burgett to make a partial payment soon on his previous loan. Usually the loans are paid in October, said Engle, but “for some reason this year it has been held onto and not paid back,” Engle said.
Perry County Judge-Executive Scott Alexander agreed, stating that he personally understands what Engle is going through, as prices of retirement and health insurance go up every year getting tighter and tighter.
“My first four (years) was a learning experience. It takes us all working together and one of the things the fiscal court does is pay the full retirement and health insurance (of county officials),” said Alexander.
According to Engle, his proposed budget for 2019 will be less expensive than Burgett’s and will bring in more revenue.
“The budget looks more than what it was with Les’s, but I’m adding some $200,000 that will be reimbursed by the school board,” said Engle. “I think we’ve got around 30 employees, I just pay about 14 counting office staff. The (Administrative Office of the Courts) pays most of the bailiffs and court security. The school board pays for all of the school resource officers except one.
“This is nothing to hurt me, it’s hurting people in the county,” Engle said.
Engle said no matter how bad the issues seem right now, he will continue to work with the county to find ways to make things work.