Last week, the Floyd County Fiscal Court approved reimbursing the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department after Sheriff John Hunt said his department had several claims to submit, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the sheriff’s department seeing a nearly 80 percent reduction in revenue.
During its regular meeting on Tuesday, July 21, the fiscal court approved reimbursing the sheriff’s department for several claims that Hunt said he wanted to submit to the court which stem from losses tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The sheriff’s department claims were not listed on the agenda, as the sheriff’s department. Hunt apologized for not being able to get the topic on the agenda prior to the meeting.
“Since the virus hit back in March we immediately laid off six employees that we’ve had laid off ever since it became in effect and they’re still laid off today,” Hunt said. “The governor’s COVID-19 money that came down through the counties was obviously a relief for counties to reimburse for the expense of payroll, which would help counties like Floyd. But, offices like the sheriff’s department could get reimbursed for their payroll and PPE equipment that we were out and some monies that would help us get caught up to where we need to be.”
According to Hunt, the sheriff’s department’s tax collections are down due to the pandemic. Hunt also said court closures have reduced the department’s charges collected for serving papers. Hunt added the department bases its income expectations almost solely on those two items.
Hunt said that he would like submit several claims into the court as well as documents that show what other counties have used this money for.
“About all the expenses that have been submitted already to the Department for Local Government has been related to payroll,” Hunt said. “We have four offices and there are some reimbursements for PPE equipment and everything.”
The sheriff’s department’s expenses for the months of March and up to July 21, according to Hunt, total approximately $162,000, which he said includes all the department’s payroll. Receiving a reimbursement for that will allow the department to bring five of its laid off staff back.
“That will at least bring us to where we can get caught up to where we should be,” Hunt said. “A lot of people in the public probably doesn’t know that we actually had to lay employees off, because you wouldn’t be able to tell due to our service. Most people wouldn’t know it, but we feel it, court services and feel it and we need to bring people back. This is one way we can do it, if the court could make the approval to submit that reimbursement expense to the DLG.”
Floyd County Judge-Executive Robbie Williams asked Hunt if he was saying that the department has experienced a reduction in revenue, due to the COVID-19 virus. Hunt said there was at least a 75 to 80 percent reduction. Williams asked whether the sheriff’s department’s income on its budget would be down around 75 percent, to which Hunt replied “absolutely.”
“For one, our payroll is already down that much,” Hunt said. “I did a cost analysis on what we normally bring in this time of year from all the court documents … it’s an easy 75 percent reduction in our income.”
According to Williams, the fiscal court is trying to juggle the expenses for not just its offices, but all the other offices it has within the county.
“I’m not trying to say the sheriff’s office is not an important office, but what we’re trying to do is take this money and stretch it out so we can make it last until the end of the year,” Williams said. “Now the monies that we’ve already got on the radar for the county, because we had $500,000 for the grants, $200,000 for the pantries, $200,000 for the Meals on Wheels and $150,000 for the fire departments so we can them new defibrillators that we’ve been desperately needing for years.”
Williams said he’s not saying the court can’t do some reimbursements, but he said he believes the court is going to have to dig into the paperwork to see what money is available.
“We’re all taking a hit on our income,” Williams said. “Our income is down as well. I mean our road fund has been slashed nearly 15 percent, but we’re all having to tighten up. The things we’re doing and the decisions we’re making is we’re trying to save money in our offices so we’ll have additional funds to work with.”
Williams added that the court has realized this is going to be the new normal for the new 12 months.
As a fiscal court, Williams said they need to really look into the money to figure out how they can make everything work and although the court would like to reimburse the sheriff’s office, Williams said it’d be difficult to look at a program such as the Meals on Wheels, which feeds 300 individuals a day, a take funding away from them to reimburse claims.
“When I’m looking at your budget and what you currently have in there,” Williams said. “And then I’m having to make a decision on a budget that’s around $400,000 to $500,000 to get my seniors fed then I’ve got some tough decisions to make. But, we certainly take everything you gave to us under consideration and see what we can’t do”
Hunt said he appreciates the court’s sentiments and he knows they will, but he said his office is “obviously” a little more desperate than the other programs.
“This is an expense that I’m already out and some of these people might not already be out that money,” Hunt said. “But I would ask the court, the magistrates themselves, if they would consider tonight voting on this to reimburse me my money.”
Dist. 4 Magistrate Ronnie Akers immediately made the motion to reimburse the sheriff’s department’s claims, for which Dist. 2 George Ousley gave a second.
There was a resolution on agenda which would have provided $150,000 to county fire departments in order to purchase new defibrillators, however the court had to table the topic as Williams said due to the motion reimbursing the sheriff’s department, the court doesn’t have the funds currently available to purchase those as expected. Williams said the court will be looking into other avenues because the departments “desperately” are in need of them, due to the lack of adequate ambulance presence in the county.