Victoria Sheriff's Office amends budget to pay for dispatcher overtime

Sonny Long

March 21, 2011 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated March 20, 2011 at 10:21 p.m.

As calls for service continue to increase, the Victoria County Sheriff's Office has adjusted its budget to pay its dispatchers for overtime.

The Victoria County Commissioners Court approved a $15,000 budget amendment Monday after an hour-long closed session discussion.

The amendment does not alter the department's overall budget because the funds were transferred from other line items.

"If you'll recall at the beginning of the year, we budgeted $12,500 for overtime at the sheriff's department the entire year. That has been used up," said County Judge Don Pozzi. "It's no increase to the general fund budget, it's simply a line item transfer from some 12 different salary line items from the telecommunications operators. We will address additional issues as they may be brought to us."

The $12,500 budgeted for overtime includes both patrol and dispatchers.

Victoria County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Terry Simons said that with the exception of one year, in the past six years, calls for service have increased about 20 percent a year.

"We've doubled the amount of calls for service since 2006," he said. "The people that this directly affects are these communicators."

Simons explained that he prepared a work sheet for commissioners showing a breakdown of the hours worked by the eight full-time and six part-time telecommunications operators.

When the numbers are crunched on the hours that full-time employees are actually available to work - taking into account required paid time off, training and other adjustments - there is a deficit of 3,632 hours, said Simons.

"We had two options, hire two more full-time employees with full benefits, plus about $10,000 in overtime, or budget for the hour deficit as overtime," Simons said. "We had to figure a way to make up the hour deficit. It's a lot safer for us to do it with overtime and part-time employees.

"It takes about 11 people to make up that number of hours," he said. "When you do it with eight, the only way to do it is with overtime."

Simons said two dispatchers on duty at all times is essential due to the two communications channels they run, including in support of other agencies and "when 911 rings, you want someone to answer it."

The Sheriff's Office also dispatches for the county adult probation department, juvenile probation department and the fire marshal.

The funds are being transferred from unexpended salary line items, said the chief deputy.

"We didn't use money we haven't spent yet, we took money we can't spend," he said. "It's money that the time has already gone on it. In our budget, we have hours budgeted for personnel to work that if they didn't work it, we didn't pay them for it and it stays in our budget."

"It's cost effective. When you back out all the other expenses on full-time employees, their compensation time, it's cheaper to work people on overtime," Simons said. "This should get us through several months. Then we'll work on it again. It isn't a great solution, but it's the most cost effective solution."

The Sheriff's Office annual overtime liability is $93,742, according to the chief deputy.



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