PERRY COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Big changes are on the way within the Perry County, Illinois Sheriff's Department. And the sheriff says money woes are to blame.
Sheriff Steve Bareis said there will be layoffs and reorganization within the department as the result of a 'perfect storm' that includes a decrease in the department's budget and increases in healthcare and operational costs.
Bareis said the budget battle in Springfield has made a significant impact on the sheriff's department already.
"Since our budget has been decreased even further, the department has laid off all part-time deputies and will have to lay off two full-time deputies with one transferring to the jail," said Bareis. "This should not affect coverage, however; I am concerned about officer safety, employee fatigue, response times to calls, public safety, and overtime expenses. The County has assured me that there will be evaluation of this policy on a quarterly basis, and I will be evaluating on a monthly basis to ensure our officers are comfortable."
"Our budget has been reduced by 25 percent over the last two years and our operational costs have increased and inmate healthcare costs have more than doubled," Bareis said. "Especially during the holiday season, I really hate to sit across from someone who is a good employee and say 'I'm sorry, but we are going to have to lay you off' or 'I'm going to have to transfer you to a different position because of staffing requirements and they have to leave a job that they not only prefer but are doing well. Hopefully, the budget will improve and these changes will only be temporary."
Bareis said the increase in the cost of healthcare is directly related to the Affordable Care Act. He said the state of Illinois has denied Medicaid healthcare coverage for those who are incarcerated at the county jail. That includes people who are awaiting trial.
"Citizens are awaiting trial, but they are presumed innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers but right now the State of Illinois doesn't see it that way for these locally-incurred medical costs," said Bareis.
According to the sheriff, in the past, once a person was convicted of a crime and sentenced, their Medicaid cards were revoked. Now, Baris said, as soon as the person is put behind bars, their cards are revoked. In turn, the sheriff's department pays for the cost of medical treatment while they're in custody, including treatment for any pre-existing medical conditions.
"This is a very unfortunate situation as even when a parent gets arrested and cannot make bail and is awaiting trial, the entire family loses coverage. Then, if they are found not guilty, then they have to go through the process again to get coverage," said Bareis.
Bareis also said that there are more inmates being housed in the county jail as the result of local law enforcement agencies making more arrests.
"As a result of more arrests, we have been running about double on county inmate population the last couple years," Bareis said.
The cost of labor has also increased, according to the sheriff.
"The County recently lost an arbitration ruling regarding salary increases for staff. We explained during the arbitration hearing that if these increases go into effect, then layoffs and staff reduction will be very likely," said Bareis.
Bareis reported that he took a $6,000 pay cut and will be on the road patrolling and responding to calls for service.
"More and longer shifts includes myself. Our whole department will be affected by these cuts. We will be expected to do more with less," he said.
The Perry County Jail will increase the number of federal inmates housed in an effort to subsidize the department. The county also received a federal grant for a multi-jurisdictional drug task force coordinator. That position is filled by the county's recently appointed chief deputy. Bareis said some people in the county were upset about the move amidst the impending layoffs, but called it a misunderstanding.
"Jamie Ellermeyer serves as my Chief Deputy in addition to task force duties and basically, the county is benefiting of having Chief Deputy services by a tenured detective that is also experienced police chief with drug task force experience at a nominal cost. If you look at the budget, this position is a line item position that is offset by a federal grant outside of the budget. This is a position that I left vacant for three years saving thousands for the county," Bareis said.