published Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond seeks more money for manpower

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond speaks to Times Free Press editorial board members.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond speaks to Times Free Press editorial board members.
Photo by Patrick Smith.

At a Glance

Budget highlights as of Dec. 31, 2012, for fiscal year 2013:

Overall budget: $27,956,131

* Projected expenses: $28,191,584

* Projected loss: $235,453

* Overtime budget: $1,094,846

* Overtime expenses: $691,338

* Vehicle expenses: $468,476

* Weapon expenses: $70,502

* Fuel expenses: $712,609

Source: Hamilton County Sheriff's Office annual report

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond wants to add more deputies to the payroll next year, but those who hold the purse strings say they are looking for budget belt-tightening.

The number of people the sheriff's office serves in the unincorporated parts of the county has increased by nearly 17 percent in the last decade, from 86,974 in 2000 to 101,663 in 2010, an annual report Hammond released this week states.

However, the number of deputies patrolling county roads has decreased from 139 to 134.

The sheriff argues his deputy ranks must grow with the population to ensure the safety of residents.

Hammond will get the chance to make his case before the Hamilton County Commission next month when budget hearings get under way.

"I'm always submitting requests based on what my divisions need," he said. "I'll go on May 6 and I'll have my 15 minutes."

Hamilton County Commissioner Larry Henry said public safety is always a concern, but commissioners are expecting continued belt tightening from all departments.

"Naturally, we care about the health, welfare and safety of Hamilton County citizens, but we are expecting all departments to operate on the same budgets from last year, or less," Henry said.

Hammond's final budget pitch is not quite ready, but the sheriff said this week that he will ask for money for deputy positions, new vehicles, school resource officers and other personnel.

In the current fiscal year, Hammond's budget is expected to be $235,453 over the $27,956,131 commissioners approved last year, according to the report.

Coppinger said Thursday it is premature to comment on Hammond's budget, because his staff had not yet met with Hammond to hash things out.

"We'll sit down and see, with the finance people, what's driving that need [to increase staffing] but we haven't even gotten to that point yet," Coppinger said.

Coppinger ultimately is responsible for presenting a budget to commissioners, who in turn vote to approve or disapprove.

"We are going to present a balanced budget, as required by law, and we are going to do that with all the expectation of no tax increase," he said.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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