County commissioners discussed key priorities Monday at the board's latest budget season, including improved pensions for detention center employeesand adding a few different county positions, one of which would be an additional drug education liaison.
The county's recommended fiscal year 2018 budget comes to $396 million, an increase of just over $7 million from FY17.
Both Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, and Board of County Commissioners President Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said detention center pensions were items on their list of consideration as the budget talks continue.
Currently, correctional officers at the Carroll County Detention Center receive their pensions after 30 years of service, but sheriff's deputies receive them after 25 years. During an agency hearing April 8, Sheriff Jim DeWees asked for correctional officers to be able to retire after 25 years and receive full benefits. The jail and its employees fall under the umbrella of the Sheriff's Office.
"The atmosphere they work in is brutal," Wantz said of the correctional officers.
Weaver agreed and said that after touring the facility, he believes it's time to improve correctional officers' pensions.
Weaver also said he'd like to see the courthouse bailiffs get a salary increase. Tom Gue and Judge Barry Hughes, who are in charge of the Circuit Court bailiffs, asked the commissioners to raise the salaries of the approximately 30 bailiffs to $20 per hour from their current $17.64 per hour during the court's agency hearing earlier in the month.
Weaver said he wasn't sure they could get them to $20 and hour, but they should try to increase salaries by a dollar or so an hour.
Weaver, Wantz and Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, advocated for the need to fill the state's attorney's request for another drug prevention and treatment liaison for the office. There is currently one, a position held by Tim Weber. Weber works on prevention and connects those with substance use disorders to treatment resources.
"I continue to think the priority needs to be on education" regarding drugs and treatment options, Wantz said.
Weaver agreed — they need another person like Weber, he said. The key is education, not incarceration, he added, something Frazier echoed.
Getting another person like Weber for a second position is "vital," Frazier said.
"It's been said thousands of times: You can't arrest your way out of this problem," Frazier added.
Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, brought up an issue he said was "premature," but worth looking into. Rothschild said he doesn't think those injured in the line of duty in Carroll are compensated enough, especially in comparison to surrounding counties.
"I just don't think what we have is competitive," he added.
Weaver agreed, and said "it's pathetic" what the county is providing financially to those who are hurt.
Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, brought up the needs for a few new county positions, including a park assistant position for Piney Run, which he said was a "pretty modest" request.
He also brought up his desire for a full-time communication or marketing position for the county, something he's advocated for previously. Howard said he'd want to put aside $30,000 for the position, and another $50,000 to promote the county, outside of what is being done in economic development in the business community.
"I think that money will pay off and benefit us," he added.
The commissioners will continue to meet this week and next week for budget work sessions, before the proposed budget is set for approval on April 27. Following its approval, the county will hold a number of community meetings throughout the county, as well as a budget hearing, before the final budget is adopted May 25.
April 27 — Proposed budget approved
7 p.m. May 1 — Community meeting at Eldersburg branch library
7 p.m. May 3 — Community meeting at North Carroll branch library
7 p.m. May 8 — Community meeting at Westminster branch library
7 p.m. May 10 — Community meeting at Taneytown branch library
7 p.m. May 11 — Community meeting at Mount Airy branch library
7 p.m. May 15 — Budget public hearing at Carroll Community College
May 25 — Budget adopted