During the current phase of the budgeting process, county-funded agencies are presenting their budget needs to the board of commissioners for consideration.
Last year, the commissioners decided to phase out the Resident Trooper Program with the Maryland State Police and make the sheriff's department the primary police force in the county. The transition will take three years; FY13 will mark the second year of the transition.
Representatives from the sheriff's department told commissioners on Wednesday that there is a need for more supervisors, and some restructuring, as a result of the transition to a county police force.
The existing plan for the sheriff's department includes a FY13 budget increase of almost 14 percent and 14 new staff positions. In the FY13 budget, drawn up last year with the transition plan, the sheriff's allocation is approximately $16.5 million (that includes the sheriff's department and the detention center, the sheriff's department alone is approximately $8.7 million).
Major Phil Kasten said that with the transition has come the need for more supervisors to assist officers working on the street.
"As our mission has changed from one of being a supportive law enforcement agency to a primary law enforcement agency, the structure that has been in place will not continue to serve us as we move forward," Kasten said. "What we ask is to reinvest some of those savings into our agency as it stands now."
Kasten clarified that the office is not asking for additional positions, but rather the $210,000 in funds would support the training and re-classification of existing employees, some of whom will move into supervisory roles.
Commissioner Dave Roush said he understands the need for additional supervisors, but said the sheriff's department should have anticipated the need a year ago when the transition plan and budget were created.
"I don’t dispute you need these supervisory skills," Roush said. "When we sat here a year ago, we asked, 'Do you have enough personnel and facilities?' We didn’t specifically ask about supervisory capacity, but that would have been the time to say, 'Yes, but we will need to create more supervisors in this structure.'"
Sheriff Kenneth Tregoning said that the department could not anticipate every need in advance of the transition.
"You have to understand, too, that this is unchartered territory," Tregoning said. "You’re talking about quite a significant change in our agency … this is part of that."
Dani Schubert, sheriff's management services bureau chief, said the $210,000 that the sheriff's department is requesting would pay for two programs.
One program, at a cost of approximately $99,000, would develop current employees and give them the opportunity to be re-classified as they master the skills they need to be on the street, Schubert said.
The other initiative, at a cost of approximately $110,000, would be to develop corporal positions, which are supervisory positions.
Tregoning said the sheriff's department is doing what was asked of it.
"You asked us to be your law enforcement agency and we will, we are," Tregoning said. "It will take cooperation on both sides for us to end up where we need to be. Back when we made the decision, no one could foresee every answer to every question as we prepared to transition over three years, adding 42 people to the operation.
"It’s a growing process and we’re going through it cooperatively with the board (of commissioners) and I don’t think we’re asking anything unreasonable," Tregoning added.
Commissioner Richard Rothschild said he believes he could cut the cost to about a quarter of what the sheriff's department has requested.
"We need to sit down with a calculator and I'll show you how I worked through this," Rothschild said. "I think we can skin the cat with less money."
Tregoning defended his request, saying, "I would never come to you and ask for something that I didn't feel was necessary for the benefit of public safety in this county."