Saying there is no greater need in the county than law enforcement, Perry County Sheriff Les Burgett, just over a week after requesting $140,000 in start up money from the Perry County Fiscal Court, was approved $44,500 in funds to get his office off the ground, but said before the funds were approved that if the county could not allocate funds, he would have to lay off employees.
“If you all can’t help me, I’ve got to lay off everybody I got by the 2nd of January,” Burgett said Thursday morning during a special called meeting, noting that his office is starting out with no funds and that he can not take out a personal loan from a bank with a high interest rate that he would be personally responsible for.
Citing certain needs of the county, Judge Executive Denny Ray Noble said he would rather not make a definite commitment to place the entire $140,000 in the budget at one time. Noble said if the amount is allocated in the budget during the meeting, the county could be put in a "bind" in the future if the county needs those funds at a later date. Noble noted that the county recently purchased two new trucks, and still needs two new graders in order to keep the county's roads in drivable condition.
Noble did say he would recommend giving the sheriff’s office funds when possible. “As we get the money in we’ll give it to you to help you,” he said.
Burgett asked if the court could at least commit to $70,000 for the start of his term in office.
“We’ll never come up with 70,” Noble replied. “We’ll come up with 40 (thousand). I was planning on 40.”
Noble again said that he could give Burgett some funds, but he would not place the entire amount requested into the budget, but rather opting to give funds when available and amend the sheriff’s budget in the future as needed.
“Come Tuesday, we’ve got to have some money or we'll lay some people off,” Burgett said.
Noble recommended to the court that $40,000 be allocated to the sheriff from the county with an additional $4,500 in election fees. Magistrates Jimmy Darrell Neace and Randy Bailey voted to approved the amendment to the sheriff’s budget in the amount of $44,500.
The funds allocated to the sheriff’s office will last about one month, Burgett said after the meeting, at which time he will have to either return to the court and ask for further funds or let employees go.
Burgett did say he would make a plea to the local school board to rethink their recent decision to keep the sheriff’s commission for tax collection at 1.5 percent, and raise it back to four percent, but even that would not give the sheriff usable funds until later in the year.
Burgett also noted that he will seek coal severance funds if the General Assembly overturns Governor Fletcher's decision on the allocation of those funds. In the past the sheriff's office was able to utilize coal severance to purchase a new fleet of vehicles for the deputies, but last year the governor vetoed all coal severance projects in lieu of county requested funds for projects the Governor's Office for Local Development deemed eligible. The sheriffs office was not eligible for those funds.
In the past, the Perry Fiscal Court has given funds to supplement the sheriff's office. In August of last year, the county approved $60,000 to former Sheriff Pat Wooton's office to cover expenses fore the remainder of the year, and in late 2005 voted to waive excess fees in the amount of $56,000 included in the sheriff's budget.