Jones County conflicted over sheriff's budget

Jones County conflicted over sheriff's budget

ELLISVILLE, MS (WDAM) - Tensions flared over the question of funding for the Jones County Sheriff's Department during the Board of Supervisor's meeting Monday morning.

"They won't give correctional officers raises," Sheriff Alex Hodge said. "But they'll do all the political stuff, send people on trips, pay for all this that and the other and it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. If you're broke, you're broke."

Both Hodge and the board said the topic of funding for the department has been an ongoing battle for 11 years.

"It's just an ongoing battle," said Chief Financial Officer Charles Miller. "He sees his job as providing law enforcement. The board has to control the spending, and so it's just a constant battle of how much law enforcement you can provide at what dollar cost."

Right now, the department's budget is at about $5.5 million. According to the board, the sheriff's department has gone over their allotted budget for the past 11 years.

But Hodge said the current budget still isn't enough to run the department and also retain officers.

"Not one dime of taxpayer money has bought one vehicle or equipment," said Hodge. "That board hadn't bought none of it. We pay for our own training; 75 percent of my budget today is in salaries. That leaves me 25% to pay for medical for inmates, to pay for housing for inmates, and to pay for fuel. All of which is taken out of my budget."

Jones County residents also spoke in support of the sheriff during the meeting.

"They need the money," said Luther Donald of Moselle. "They're having to take extra jobs to make a living for their families. I've talked to a lot of these guys, and if they can't make enough money then they're going to leave. They're going somewhere else."

Miller said Hodge's proposal comes at bad timing because they are eight months into the fiscal year, and the money's not available right now.

"I think the board is fully behind law enforcement and nobody is questioning his ability to provide law enforcement," said Miller. "That's why I say maybe in the next budget year, the board and the sheriff can come up with some ways to try to improve the situation."

According to Miller, the board has to put other matters into consideration before moving forward with any plans to raise the funding for the department.

"Law enforcement is just one aspect of the budget," Miller said. "You got the road and bridges, and so the board has to take all these things into consideration and then determine how much taxation they want to put on the people. So it's a balancing act."

Hodge said he will continue to fight until there is a resolution on the budget for the department.

"It's time for the people to stand up and speak," said Hodge. "If that's what you want in your board of supervisors, who are making decisions, then that's fine. You can send me home in 2019."

No decision was made on whether or not to expand the budget for the department.

You can view the department's budget for the past 11 years below.