Escambia County

Welcome to Black Hole Budgeting: Showdown looms

July 13, 2017

In the good old days – or should I say “good old boy days” – of county government, County Administrator George Touart and Sheriff Ron McNesby knew how to manipulate their budgets. The hunting buddies concocted schemes that let the sheriff steadily increase his budget, while remodeling his administrative offices and buying whatever gadget the sheriff wanted.

Then in the fall of 2007, Touart retired – or did he resign? or was he fired? – after questions about his side business deals arose. The following year, McNesby lost to David Morgan, and the budget harmony between the county administration and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office ended.

In the wings, Touart and McNesby constantly undermined Morgan while Touart plotted his return to power. Two administrators lost their jobs over the budget fights – Bob McLaughlin and Randy Oliver.

When Touart was brought back under the guise of giving him six months to become vested in the state retirement system, the animosity between the county and ECSO hit a fever pitch, resulting in the county taking back the county jail.

Sheriff Morgan is in his last term. On “Pensacola Speaks,” he made it clear that he has no more patience for political games.

He asked for a budget of $59.8 million that included a 3 percent pay raise for deputies and pay adjustment for long-time deputies who have missed pay raises in past years because of budget cuts.

County Administrator Jack Brown refused to present that budget to the BCC. He cut the request by $3.5 million and deleted the pay raises for deputies.

The sheriff isn’t happy, especially in light of the soaring detention budget that is $40.8 million for FY 2018.

He sent a message to the commissioners that he may appeal his full budget to the Florida Cabinet. Until then, he will begin restructuring.

“In light of the BOCC rejection of the ECSO budget, I will be shortly restructuring the office to focus on high intensity crime areas,” said Sheriff Morgan. “This will result in the reduction of patrols in many areas, and the closing of some precincts. We will be reviewing the crime data district by district. I will advise you of my decisions and the actions as they occur.”

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8 Comments

  • Reply Bob July 13, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Great job Rick!!! Keep posting, the system around here bears watching…

  • Reply John Johnson July 13, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    Isn’t the County Administrator an employee of the County Commissioners and doesn’t he follow their guidelines and directions in the budget process? Assuming those variables to be true, haven’t the Commissioners already expressed their desires? How many billboards does it take to give one deputy a 3% pay raise anyway?

  • Reply Dr. Frank Jimenez July 13, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    It is hard to believe that the County Comisioners are playing for money with the securitie and peace of the Escambia people.
    We all must speak and call our Comisioner. We have to support our Sheriff Morgan and the ECSO

  • Reply Joel Sampson July 13, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Did I hear the SO rep didn’t catch his name) say on the show they’re getting resistance that if they give SO a raises then they have to give all county employee raises? Is this a county thing or standard? Sorry, first time I’ve heard that said.
    The increasing deputy attrition over pay and broken raise promises is alarming both on safety and fiscal levels.

    Also, can someone explain the delays and even non acknowledgement of email requests regarding staffing and budgets?. With Sunshine Laws, I’d like to see that email chain; were they even read? They’re 7 months late delivering a report over deputy pay comparison in FL? I could probably crank that out before I go to bed.

    I didn’t catch the whole interview, apologies if these were already addressed.

  • Reply K July 13, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    He’s like a spoiled child that doesn’t get his way. I agree deputies need to be compensated more but I think his time has passed and we need a new sheriff in town. To quote “cool hand Luke …’what we have here is failure to communicate.'” He’s picked a precarious time to request the increase.

  • Reply Bill McBride July 13, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Growing healthcare costs…ANOTHER great argument for universal single payer healthcare

  • Reply Tom Turner July 13, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    The SO pay needs for the deputies is real – maybe not as far as he was asking in regard to the compression issues but i know the starting pay is woefully low and inhibits effective recruiting. The turnover that is occurring cannot be stemmed without pay adjustments. Hiring is difficult due to the standards that need to be adhered to to gain people of integrity. and the process to become effective as a deputy is likely about a year from date of hire. Once staffing in law enforcement falls under what is needed it takes YEARS to regain the footing. The compensation study that was awarded to Evergreen Consultants likely pointed this out but I do not know what has become of that. My advice had been do NOT do the study if the BCC was not serious or able to fund and implement the results. The County administrator knew this admonition and authorized the study anyway – with some slanting to use smaller jurisdictions for more favorable comparisons. The study was not yet complete nor were preliminary reports in when I left in mid-January.

    Another big budget item this year is the health insurance. For FY17, AON Consulting, the actuary for the plan, recommended a funding increase from 14 to 18%. Budget projections had close to this amount but since the projection was not expressed in a certain manner the revenue needed to fund the correctly projected expense was not factored into the preliminary budget. During the budget hearings I heard someone indicate the BCC did not have an actuarial projection for FY17. That was false. Ss the budget was finalized, Commissioner Barry apparently advised the County administrator he could only see a 7% increase. That ignored the experts regarding required funding. I authored a memo that was delivered to the County administrator and the Assistant County administrator in mid-January that predicted this action would likely result in a 15 to 20% increase in the health insurance funding for FY2018. This budget nightmare could have been mitigated somewhat had correct actions been taken earlier, The comp study had been requested since 2014 but not approved until FY17. The county’s pay structure is a mess from an HR standpoint. Start rates have not increased except by 3.1% in 2011 since 2009 or so. The BCC could not hire a surveyor due to pay. The BCC is not competitive in the engineering market. Until the BCC changes the control of the county to a program driven budget versus budget office driven budget Escambia county will languish in many areas. But such a budget focus requires a vision, a strategic plan and a common unified functioning county government rather than individual silos and five fiefdoms.

  • Reply CJ Lewis July 13, 2017 at 10:33 am

    As the most obvious question raised by this story, what state law empowers a County Administrator to “refuse” – the word used above – to present a Sheriff’s original budget submission to the Board of County Commissioners? There is a state law that governs the budget process for a Sheriff, Section 30.49 Budgets, Florida Statutes. In the very first sentence, it provides, “Pursuant to s. 129.03(2), each sheriff shall annually prepare and submit to the board of county commissioners a proposed budget for carrying out the powers, duties, and operations of the office for the next fiscal year.” Both the Sheriff and the Board of County Commissioners are mentioned but not the County Administrator.

    If the County Administrator, the county’s chief administrative official, has any beefs with the Sheriff’s budget submission, the appropriate administrative procedure would be for the County Administrator to prepare a detailed memorandum describing any concerns attaching the Sheriff’s budget submission and the County Administrator’s proposed changes to the Sheriff’s budget submission. If that is not how the process is done, then that seems a bad thing.

    I wish the Florida Legislature would show some leadership on this recurring issue and amend Section 30.49 to provide that the Sheriff submit their annual budget to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) whose Director knows more about law enforcement than the County Administrator, or the County Commissioners. If the County Commission has a beef with the Sheriff’s budget approved by the FDLE, the Commission can then be the one to appeal the budget to the Administration Commission. In fact, all constitutional officers should directly submit their annual budgets to the appropriate department in Tallahassee with the expertise to properly review the budget. In some cases, that is already done.

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