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The Garland County Sheriff's Department is asking for two new patrol deputy positions in its 2020 budget, telling justices of the peace earlier this month that manpower can be added without affecting the department's budget.

Under Sheriff Jason Lawrence told a joint committee meeting of the Garland County Quorum Court Finance and Human Resources committees that he will reveal how when the department presents its 2020 budget proposal Wednesday.

"We already have a way to fund those at a great reduction in regards to what our presented budget was last year," he said. "I'd like to see those positions funded for 2020. If you will, give me the opportunity at budget hearings. I'll be glad to go through the process and explain how we can save money at the same time."

The joint committee tabled the request. District 6 JP Ray Owen Jr. suggested waiting until the county has a better understanding of how its share of the casino tax levied on Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort's net gaming receipts affects general fund revenues. The first two months of receipts since the tax took effect July 1 were up 140% and 135% compared to the 0.50% share of net receipts from games of skill the county received last year.

The casino gaming amendment Arkansas voters passed last year entitles the county to 8% of the 13% tax applied to Oaklawn's first $150 million of annual net gaming receipts. The tax increases to 20% on net receipts over $150 million.

"I'd like to put it off until at least midyear and go for four new deputies," Owen said prior to making the motion to table. "I personally don't want to do it now. I'd like to look at it again on June 1."

Lawrence said the two positions would give the patrol division seven deputies per shift, augmenting the four to six he said are constantly responding to calls for service across the department's more than 700 square mile jurisdiction.

"From September of last year to September of this year there were 33,328 calls for service," he told JPs, noting that the average response time was 13 minutes. "Based on our records management system, there were 4,335 reports. Some of those require two deputies. Then you have two deputies working the entire county.

"This has turned into an issue that we have to provide a level of service for the safety and security for the citizens of Garland County. The only way to do that is to respectfully ask for two additional deputies so we will be in a position to have seven per shift at that point."

Earlier in the meeting JPs approved the transfer of five budgeted positions from the juvenile detention center to the adult detention center, a move the sheriff's department said will enable an operational expansion that can absorb overcrowding at the adult facility.

The department said earlier this month that it will request reduced funding for the juvenile jail's 2020 budget, which is supported by the general fund. The 0.375% countywide sales tax voters approved in 2011 funds the adult jail.

JPs also tabled requests for merit pay increases for six positions at the road department and treasurer and assessor's offices and the coroner's salary increase request

County departments and elected offices will present their 2020 budget proposals to the finance committee Wednesday.

Local on 10/20/2019

Print Headline: Sheriff's department proposes adding patrol deputies

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