The Fulton County Board of Supervisors approved a $40,000 budget transfer Monday to help pay for new dispatch computer training and anticipated shortfalls in the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department overtime budget.
For 2021, Fulton County budgeted $222,500 for overtime costs for the sheriff’s deputies, but the department is on pace for approximately $312,000 worth of overtime costs for the year. The county spent $233,220 on overtime for 2020 and $233,220 on overtime in 2019.
Sheriff Richard Giardino said a “perfect storm” of personnel shortages in his department has caused it to burn through about 70 percent of its overtime budget — approximately $155,750 — for sheriff’s deputies through the beginning of June.
“We are exceeding our last three years in our pace and use of overtime,” Giardino said. “We’ve had a perfect storm the last several months, between COVID-19, manpower shortages, and we had two officers out for extended periods, one with a surgery, one with another medical.”
Giardino said his department is budgeted to have 20 road patrol deputies, five investigators, a captain, the county undersheriff and himself, which would be 29 officers total, but he’s lost eight deputies since October 2020, and expects to lose another officer for10 months due to a military commitment.
“Between October and December 31, we lost four, and then we lost four between January and May,” he said. “Of the four this year, two were lateral transfers and two we released for other reasons. Last year, two retired and two resigned to get out of law enforcement.”
Officer quarantines from COVID-19 also affected the Sheriff’s Department in March. After successfully avoiding any COVID-19 positive cases among sheriff’s deputies in 2020, Giardino at the time said he had two officers out after they contracted the virus around the same time as a major outbreak at the County Jail. He said at the time that about half of the county’s road patrol had received a COVID-19 vaccine, but has never recommended or argued against any of his staff receiving the vaccine. Giardino is one of the few local sheriffs who has been unwilling to say whether he has received a COVID-19 shot. He did not estimate the overtime impact of the quarantines from the virus.
Giardino said he’s been able to use some salary savings from the vacant deputies positions to cover some of the higher than normal overtime costs, but he won’t be able to do that for much longer. He said his department has three new deputies scheduled to start at the police academy on July 12, two new deputies in the academy now and two new deputies currently undergoing their 160 hours of field training with other agencies. He said personnel shortages have effectively left him with 15 road patrol officers when the county has budgeted for at least 21 of them.
He said the problem will get worse when he begins providing the “recommended 24 hours of training” for deputies on the county’s new Tyler Technologies 911 Computer Aided Dispatch system, known as CAD. He said the new system, which is also being integrated into the Gloversville and city of Johnstown police departments, costs approximately “$1 million,” but includes significant savings over the annual cost of the county’s old “Impact Software” system.
The $40,000 budget transfer approved by the Board of Supervisors on Monday came from the Sheriff’s Department’s “contractual” budget line, and Giardino said the savings came from money the county didn’t need to spend on the old Impact dispatch system.
According to the resolution, $29,000 will go for overtime costs for sheriff’s deputies, $5,500 will go for the “supplemental” cost of hiring part-time per diem sheriff’s deputies, $4,000 will go for the sheriff’s dispatchers staff overtime costs and $1,500 will go for part-time dispatcher costs.
Montgomery County also recently purchased the Tyler Technologies CAD dispatch system for $1.7 million. Sheriff Jeff Smith in February said his county was about a year behind in purchasing the new software, but it was a necessary upgrade that should yield significant advantages over the older dispatch system, and allow Montgomery and Fulton counties dispatch systems to remain compatible.
Smith on Monday said his county has a total of 30 sheriff’s deputies, never lost any deputies to COVID-19 exposures or quarantines and has an annual overtime budget of about $100,000, which they did not exceed in 2020 and do not expect to exceed in 2021. He said he does not anticipate spending any overtime money training deputies on the new CAD system.
“Everybody has to get training, but it should be minimal training because the transition should not be drastic,” Smith said. “It’s all kind of a Microsoft Office utilization format, and we’re already using that type of system, so it’s not like going from an Apple product to say a Droid product. It’s the same platform. We definitely don’t anticipate any overtime for that. We’ll do the training while they’re working.”
Giardino said comparing his personnel situation to Montgomery County’s is like comparing apples to oranges because he doesn’t have the full complement of deputies available to Smith. He said the county’s sheriff’s deputies contract also requires him to pay overtime for any sheriff who comes in to work or to get training on what was supposed to be a day off.
“He doesn’t have to cover the extra shifts with extra people — we are limited,” Giardino said. “I think it’s great that he doesn’t have to cover that with overtime, because if he’s got four or five guys, so he can take people off the road to do training, and not be impacted by overtime.”
CONTRACT EXTENDED ONE YEAR
Monday the Fulton County Board of Supervisors also approved a new retroactive one-year contract extension for the Fulton County Deputy Sheriffs Police Benevolent Association union. The contract extension gives the deputies a $750 increase in their base pay and increases their salaries by 3%.
Fulton County Administrator Jon Stead said the contract extension carries forward all of the provisions of the existing sheriff’s deputies contract. Stead said the Fulton County Board of Supervisors does not have a complete copy of the union contract.
“To be honest with you, with the PBA contract, the PBA’s lead negotiator has been unwilling to provide full edits [of the contract],” Stead said. “This is going to sound ridiculous to you, but they won’t provide full edits to the full collective bargaining agreement, so that’s why I don’t have a finished product for that one, even though we’re two contracts in place [since the last complete contract on file].”
All of the present supervisors voted to approve the one-year contract extension. Johnstown 2nd Ward Supervisor Michael Kinowski, Gloversville Supervisor Charles Potter and Bleecker Supervisor David Howard were absent from Monday’s full board meeting, but the rest of the supervisors unanimously voted to approve the contract extension.