Allen County Council on Thursday agreed to spend about $823,000 more next year than it originally hoped – with the Sheriff's Department the major beneficiary.
The Council in July had instructed all departments to reduce spending by 2.3 percent, but nine departments appealed that directive, asking for an additional $2.46 million. Sheriff Ken Fries accounted for $1.6 million of that total, but eventually agreed to reduce his appeal to $827,000, which Council granted. Much of the money is needed to pay jail inmates' medical bills.
Council also granted an additional $24,000 to the coroner's office, $55,000 for various departments' automobile insurance and nearly $7,000 for homeland security. Council denied appeals from the building, emergency communications and parks departments.
The appeals granted totaled about $906,000 but Council expects the actual expenses to be about $823,000 because of anticipated increases in some fees.
Despite reducing Fries' appeal, Council members cautioned against calling it a “cut,” noting his 2013 budget of $21 million will still be about 3 percent more than this year's.
President Larry Brown said he and other members had received numerous calls and e-mails from employees – mostly in the Sheriff's Department – who were concerned cuts might jeopardize their jobs. “But nobody ever said we would cut 40 jobs from the jail,” he said.
Even so, Council members said they would consider a policy that would require department heads to seek permission before replacing employees who leave or retire. Council is also considering hiring an analyst to review Fries' budget for additional savings.
Councilman Paul Moss abstained during the vote on Fries' appeal.