Blount County Sheriff Trying to Squeeze Out Increase For Deputies

Blount County (WVLT) - The Blount County Sheriff's operating budget is running dry, and it's those money woes that took the sheriff back to county commissioners Thursday night asking for some help.

Sheriff Jim Berrong has been lobbying commissioners for some time for better pay for deputies.

Deputies are owed thousands in overtime backpay, and the fund to pay it is running dry.

As the fiscal year winds down, Sheriff Berrong says he's struggling with finances to serve and protect Blount County residents.

He's forced to ask commissioners to transfer $770,000 in surplus money designated for unused officer salaries to pay employee overtime.

"We have like 27 open positions right now at the sheriff's office because we can't get anybody to work for us at the pay rate and if they do, it's for a very brief time," Sheriff Jim Berrong says.

Berrong wants to use any leftover money to reward deputies with a one-time county commission budget committee member approves the idea.

"A way I think to temporarily address that until we can consider how to solve the problem," Mike Lewis says.

Problem is, the department is running short in other areas, as well.

The sheriff estimates fleet fuel costs from now until the end of June will amount to roughly $80,000...and jail inmate medical care during the same period will cost about $100,000.

Speakers during the commission's public forum differ on how the sheriff allocates his budget.

"The last two years, I've had to my wife and my children I'm sorry I can't afford that," Tony Rayburn says.

"I'm sure if he's not given all the money he's asked for, he will again cut the service to the public like he did last year," Patricia Bell says.

Meantime, Sheriff Berrong continues to fight for better deputy pay.

"We're going to continue to lobby the commissioners on an increase for these deputies," Sheriff Berrong says.

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