The Houston County Commission approved budget adjustments Tuesday that will allow the hiring of six new jailers and a drug investigator, but the sheriff’s department will have to pay for it by making cuts elsewhere.
Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said the county has not approved new positions in several years unless the costs are covered by other cuts, and Sheriff Cullen Talton agreed to make cuts in order to get the new positions.
The total annual cost of the jail positions is $310,000, and the investigator will cost $60,398. That money will come out of an array of cuts in other areas of the sheriff’s department, Stalnaker said. Among those are a reduction in contracted professional services at the jail, such as medical services. Stalnaker said the cuts do not impact public safety.
“They had looked at this for quite some time,” Stalnaker said. “This wasn’t a knee-jerk decision. They have looked at it for well over a year to see how they can get additional positions.”
Commissioner Larry Thomson, who made the motion to approve the adjustments, said the request was made because of a need for additional security at the jail. He said there have been several incidents that have underscored that need. He also said the drug investigator is needed “to combat the ever-present drug problem within our community.”
At the previous commission meeting Stalnaker said tax revenues are not expected to grow much this year, which means no new spending without a tax increase. All of the commissioners committed to not raising taxes.