Eagle County, sheriff at odds over overtime | VailDaily.com

Eagle County, sheriff at odds over overtime

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” After months of discussion over the Sheriff’s Office budget, the sheriff and county commissioners are still wrangling over how much overtime the county can afford to pay officers.

The debate started again after Sheriff Joe Hoy has asked for $82,000 to pay for overtime hours in a recent budget request.

The Sheriff’s Office has always been fully funded for working overtime, which has resulted in almost $1 million increases each year to the department’s budget.

However, this year commissioners said they wanted to slim down the county budget. They cut overtime funds and asked the Sheriff’s Office to do their part to make their schedules more efficient.

“The conversation going into the budget was frustrating for us and the sheriff. There were several years (that the Sheriff’s budget) had a million dollar increases. Now, quite frankly, we’re getting the budget in better shape,” County Commissioner Arn Menconi said.

Raises and overtime in the department are costing the county more than it can afford, and overtime funds should be reserved for emergency situations, county officials said.

Despite cutting down their overtime hours from last year by 38 percent, the Sheriff’s Office is already 154 percent over their overtime budget for the year and $160,000 over their salary budget, County Finance Director John Lewis said.

“They have reduced their overtime, but it’s not enough ” 3 percent to 5 percent of wages are spent on overtime in other counties, and last year (Eagle County) was at 19 percent,” Lewis said.

However, Hoy said it isn’t fair to compare Eagle County to surrounding counties like Garfield and Pitkin Counties.

“We need to be compared to the Front Range counties because of the challenges and growth we’re seeing here,” he said.

The department is working on the problem, he said. It has hired a company to review the Sheriff’s Office and give suggestions on scheduling, and it has already cut overtime by training during work hours instead of during overtime.

The results of the department’s review will be ready in about a month, and Hoy said he is open to suggestions from consultants.

Still, he does not want officers to worry about finishing a case or answering a call because of overtime problems, he said.

“We’re a 24-hour department. Our job is dangerous ” it’s a tough world out there, and we’re called on more than other (county departments). Sometimes, we’re stretched very thin,” Hoy said.

County officials said they want to meet with the Sheriff’s Office to work out an agreement.

“We want to make sure the individuals working at the Sheriff’s Office feel they’re being supported by the commissioners,” Menconi said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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