FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — An error discovered in the 2017 Forsyth County budget has revealed the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is facing a $500,000 shortfall.
Sheriff’s Office Maj. Tom Patton asked the Board of Commissioners Sept. 26 for funding to make up for the shortfall to cover personnel salary costs through the end of the fiscal year. Commissioners approved the request.
“We’ve taken a lot of proactive steps, but we’re left with a deficiency we can’t cover internally,” Patton said.
The 2016 Sheriff’s Office budget included salary and overtime allocations of just under $22 million, he said, but actual spending for the year was over $23 million. That left an overdraft of about $1.7 million in the salary and overtime accounts. Part of the deficit was reduced through savings in other accounts, Patton said.
The budget was drawn up by the prior administration under then-Sheriff Duane Piper.
“The administration this year, of course, inherited the 2017 budget and had no input to it,” Patton said. “We believe we have done a good job reining in spending from wherever we could. We have shaved about $1.2 million off the $1.7 million deficit we initially started with.”
Now, the department is short $500,000 that reflects a flaw in the way last year’s and this year’s budgets were prepared – an oversight in shift scheduling.
The salary budget for the year was prepared as the sum of the salaries of the current employees, Patton said. The budget is based on whether all positions are vacant or filled. It also overlooked the fact that some employees work 12-hour shifts rather than the normal 8-hour shift.
There are no work-arounds in terms of finding cheaper vendors or managing overtime, he said. The department, he said, is within budget in every line item this year, except for salaries.
“We ask for the money reluctantly,” Patton said. “We waited this far into the year to manage that number down to as small as we could. But we’re left with what we view as a correction in the budget.”
Chief Financial Officer Dave Gruen said the budget is prepared each year by taking the roster of positions, then adding the salaries and vacancies to create a figure.
The 2018 budget corrects the oversight, Gruen said, so the department should not face the same issue next year. The Sheriff’s Office has also reduced its vacancies from more than 40 down to around 20, he said.