Jones County, MS (WDAM) - The Jones County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted and approved a budget for the Jones County Sheriff’s Department that is over $2 million less than what Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge originally proposed during Tuesday’s public hearing for the 2018-2019 Fiscal Year.
According to the Boards Budget Recap for the 2018-2019 FY, they approved the Sheriff for $3,485,976 towards law enforcement and $2,285,839 towards jails.
Sheriff Hodge originally proposed an $8.3 million budget. He said the costs would allow him to properly run and staff the department.
During the over 2-hour public hearing, Hodge, residents and board members clashed over difference of opinions on how the department should be funded.
“We need to know when we need a deputy, there’s a deputy available and we’re not going to wait for them,” one resident said.
“I don’t think he’s asking for anything unreasonable,” another said.
Hodge has expressed multiple times that his law enforcement and correction facilities are understaffed and underpaid.
Beat 3 Supervisor Barry Saul said while he understands the sheriff’s needs, the money is not available.
“It all comes down to economics,” Saul said. “It all comes down to money.”
Hodge admits to going over his budget every year. This has caused the Board to place the department on a hiring freeze.
During the meeting Hodge accused the Board of controlling how he runs the department.
“Have we ever told you how to run law enforcement,” asked Board of Supervisor President Jerome Wyatt.
“You’re doing it today,” replied Hodge.
Board members said the only way to accommodate the sheriff’s budget would be to raise taxes.
Hodge has said repeatedly in the past that he in against tax increases.
“Is this board going to raise taxes on the citizens or are we not?” asked Saul.
Saul said that later in the year he will propose to the Board a referendum to raise taxes on the November 2019 general election ballot for Hodge.
Hodge was asked if he would take responsibility should the board decide to raise taxes on their citizens. He declined.
“Let me just say without any waiver whatsoever I will not support any tax increase,” Hodge said.
Hodge also served each member of the board with a notice of liability stating:
During the public hearing, several residents questioned the board on how money in the county is spent.
The Board stated that the Sheriff’s budget is a part of the general fund which makes up 27 percent of the total budget.
The Board says the remaining 73 percent of the budget belongs to other services that are mandated by the state such as education, which takes of 54 percent of the budget, and roads and bridges, which take up 8 percent of the budget.
“It can only be used under state law for roads and bridges,” Saul said. “It can’t be used for fire department and law enforcement.”
Via Facebook, Hodge said despite the budget, he will continue to provide Jones County with the highest level of protection service that the department can.
The finalized budget will be published September 15.