09-17-2008, 08:48 PM #1
ralph johnson story in daily news
Walton sheriff asks for more funding
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County officials say the request for $320,000 for fiscal 2008-09 is a surprise because it comes so late in the budget process
September 17, 2008 - 8:19PM
DeFUNIAK SPRINGS - "Effective October 1, 2008, all personnel that drive company issued vehicles home will be charged a $100.00 fee. This is to include both marked and unmarked vehicles. This $100.00 will be withheld from your paycheck."
Walton County Sheriff's Office supervisors and deputies received that memo Tuesday. By Thursday, eight full-time and two part-time employees will have received notices that their last day on the job could be Sept. 30.
But Sheriff's Capt. Eddie Farris said those cost-cutting measures will be implemented only if the Walton County Commission refuses to approve the request Sheriff Ralph Johnson made at a budget hearing Monday "to move around" about $320,000. The additional funds would be used to cover salaries and other expenses, including the unexpectedly high cost of fuel.
"It's based on what the commissioners do," said Farris, who added that Johnson will attend the final budget meeting Sept. 29 to get an answer on his request.
It is not unusual for sheriffs to make requests for additional funding, and Johnson is "just wanting to make sure that everything's met. This is a last resort. He doesn't want to see anyone laid off," Farris said.
County Commissioner Larry Jones said the property tax rate of 3.36 mills was set during a workshop in July, and that rate determined the overall budget of more than $111 million. That was the figure that was discussed at the hearing where Johnson made his request, which Jones said was neither approved nor denied.
Jones would not predict whether the board would approve the request at its Sept. 29 meeting.
"We cannot change the millage rate, so we cannot change the budget ... If we increase in one area, we have to decrease in another area within the approved budget," he said.
"Do you want us to not pave one of the county roads? Do you want one of the departments shut down?" county Finance Director Bill Imfeld asked rhetorically.
He said he and others were flabbergasted at Johnson's request, especially because it was the first time they learned that the Sheriff's Office is overstaffed. The commissioners approved his funding request for 202 employees in July, but that number now stands at 206.
"If you're funded for 202 and you've got 206, something's got to give," said Imfeld, who said he only found out about the staffing increase - which includes an accountant from Panama City - at Monday's hearing. "So, to many, the obvious answer is to get on board with what the board approved and do what (Johnson) said he would do for this year, which was not to hire additional bodies."
Farris said Johnson simply is trying to figure out a way to control the budget without making any staffing cuts.
According to a state statute, an elected official whose budget is approved by a County Commission who is serving out his or her final term in office cannot make any amendments to the budget, "including transferring funds between itemized appropriations, or expending in a single month more than one-twelfth of any itemized approved appropriation," without the board's approval.
That statute applies to Johnson because he lost his bid for re-election. Challenger Mike Adkinson, DeFuniak Springs' city marshal, won the Aug. 26 Republican primary and will run against Democrat Danny Griffith in the general election Nov. 4.
Imfeld said he was confused and angry that "somebody comes into a Monday night hearing (who also) was at the July budget workshop and didn't say a word about (the overstaffing). And then on the night of the hearing on Sept. 15, they suddenly say they want $320,000 more."
Approving the $320,000 request will be difficult in light of the decline in property, sales and gasoline tax revenues, Imfeld said. That was part of the reason the board decided to hold each elected official to his or her current staffing level, he added.
"I don't know what to say about the layoffs because he went above the funded level to begin with," Imfeld said.
However, one solution would be for Johnson to ask the commissioners for temporary funding to allow the Sheriff's Office to get through the rest of his term, which ends in January, he added.
09-17-2008, 09:51 PM #2
Too Bad, So Sad
All I can say is, I hope the BCC don't give in to RJ's request! RJ knew a long time ago that he was over staffed and didn't say a word to the BCC back in July. He really didn't count on loosing the primary election, and he thought he would be able to keep pulling the same routine about moving money from pot to pot in the SO to cover his additional positions....that he wasn't even budgeted to have in the first place. So he shouldn't be trying to blame the BCC for the lay offs...it's his own d*mn fault for hiring them, knowing good and well he didn't have the money in the budget.
I know there are now seven people that have already recieved letters(walking papers) in the past two days at the SO. He's a real class act isn't he folks.McCain/Palin for PresidentMike Adkinson Jr. for Sheriff
Sheriff Johnson could have saved a lot of money by not hiring an attorney and CPA to represent the Sheriff's Dept this year. I bet they get paid at least ten times the hourly rate of a Deputy.
If they need to fire employees, how about starting with the employee who gave the Sheriff's Office checking account number to an internet scammer, costing something like $30,000 loss in cash. Also, I think the Sheriff's lack of reporting to the IRS for his dept, cost somewhere around $70,000 in penalties, plus lawyer and accountant fees. I say that additional cost should come directly out of Sheriff Johnson's FAT salary of $115,000+ salary.
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09-18-2008, 08:38 AM #4
Dido brother!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!McCain/Palin for PresidentMike Adkinson Jr. for Sheriff
09-19-2008, 06:32 PM #5
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