Photo by Curt Yeomans
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted to create 60 new positions in county Sheriff Kem Kimbrough’s office on Tuesday. The positions are designed to help end a trend of the sheriff’s office using overtime to have enough deputies to do several of its functions.
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners signed off on a plan to eliminate overtime in the county sheriff’s office by adding $4.4 million to the office’s budget for new positions, on Tuesday.
Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough and County Manager Wade Starr told commissioners last month that 60 new positions would be needed to eliminate overtime payments in the sheriff’s office, while also helping him staff the county jail. He explained at the time that he had to shut down a wing of the jail because of a lack of staff, which caused as many as 300 inmates to sleep on floors in crowded jail cells.
The sheriff explained on Tuesday, however, that these new positions would make it possible for him to re-open the shuttered jail wing, and eliminate overcrowding among the prisoners.
“Some of the things this is going to allow us to do — without incurring overtime — is it’s going to allow me to put one warrant team in each of the [patrol] zones, in each of the shifts that we operate,” Kimbrough told commissioners. “It’s [also] going to allow me to operate the jail and staff every posting in the jail, without incurring overtime.”
The commission voted 4-1 to give the sheriff’s office permission to hire 32 correctional officers, 19 sheriff’s deputies, five investigators, and four correctional lieutenants. The lone vote against the positions was cast by Commissioner Michael Edmondson, who argued that he and his colleagues needed more time to review the plan since they only received it on Tuesday.
The $4.4 million it will cost to create the positions is slightly less than the $4.6 million the overtime was projected to cost the county during the current fiscal year. Starr said at least part of the savings comes from that fact that the county has to pay time-and-a-half for overtime, so a person who works eight hours of overtime ends up actually being paid the equivalent of 12 hours of work.
By hiring more personnel, and eliminating much of the overtime, the county would only end up paying an employee the equivalent of eight hours of pay for working the same amount of time, the county manager explained.
“The overtime is costing us more than it would if we were to hire people,” Starr said.
But, it came at somewhat of a cost for Kimbrough. As part of the agreement to give him the requested positions, he had to agree to a memorandum of understanding with the commission. That memorandum calls for him to eliminate 24 school resource officer positions if the school district ever stops paying for the bulk of the officers salary and health benefits, Starr said.
The school system largely pays for positions through a contract it has signed with the sheriff’s office. Starr said the school resource officer positions would be eliminated through a reduction of force.
“We are willing to support the effort that he is doing [in the schools], but in the absence of the school board contract, then we would have committed to a real expansion of his personnel costs without any real revenue source,” Starr told commissioners during a pre-meeting work session.