A committee of the Jefferson County Quorum Court has tabled a request from Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. for an almost half-million increase in his budget but will discuss the matter next week.
Justice of the Peace Ted Harden, who chaired the committee meetings on Tuesday in place of County Judge Gerald Robinson, said members of the county’s legislative body, including himself and justices of the peace Jimmy Fisher and Dr. Herman Ginger, had met with Woods, Robinson and County Treasurer Vonysya Goodwin Monday on the matter.
“We’re looking at things going forward,” Harden said. “This will get us through this year, and we’ve talked about several ideas.”
Specifically, the Sheriff’s Office, in a letter from Office Manager Chris Brown, said the 2019 budget appropriation was $207,259.21 less than what the department asked for. In addition, $188,259 of that budget was designated to make a payment on the loan the county obtained to complete the new Sheriff’s Office building. Another $32,000 was designated to pay claims from 2018.
Woods said that he was not in office when the 2019 budget was being put together, and while he disagreed with some portions of it, the budget had to be finished by Dec. 31.
Ginger and Woods also exchanged words about a second appropriation ordinance that would eliminate three positions at the adult jail and shift the salaries and benefits to operational costs, including utility bills, waste disposal, computer services and internet connections. Also involved in the shift would be money that had been designated for salaries for jailers whose positions were vacant.
Ginger said the $170,000 that would be taken out of salaries should go back into the County General budget, and he described the effort to shift it to operational costs as a “slush fund” for the jail.
Woods denied the use of the term, saying that “the only alternative to operate the jail would be to open the doors and let everybody out. Just because the slots are unfilled doesn’t mean we don’t need them.”
He described the position of jailer as a “revolving door. Turnover is high, retention is low.”
Woods also said that when the 2019 jail budget was approved, the position of assistant jail administrator was eliminated.
“That’s one of the biggest headaches we have,” Woods said. “The jail administrator now has to help with doing laundry, help with cooking and other things, and that is not going to continue.”