HENNEPIN — No one disagrees that finances in Putnam County are an issue, but something’s got to give if the board wants to keep the sheriff’s department well staffed, says the chief deputy.
Chad Haage told board members this week that deputies have gone three or four years without any wage increase, and that isn’t working anymore for the department.
“We’re going to start losing people,” Haage said. “So if we have to start holding people accountable for a job that’s what we’re going to do,” he said, referring to board members.
“Three, four years with no raise. Would you go somewhere else?” Haage challenged.
“The cost of living goes up and these guys sit idly by, waiting, waiting, waiting,” he said of the assembled deputies attending the meeting.
Board Chairman Steve Malavolti said he understands where they’re coming from, but the money just isn’t there. “I would love to give everybody a 2% raise, but it’s not there to give.”
Malavolti said the only way to possibly increase wages is a tax referendum, or a special service ordinance.
Voters won’t support higher taxes, Malavolti says, and a special service ordinance would bring in money to fund mandates, but he doesn’t believe it would bring in enough to increase wages.
If property taxes were increased, Malavolti said he doesn’t think it would be the answer sheriff’s deputies are looking for either.
A property tax increase would allocate dollars first to retirement and insurance funding, leaving potentially very little left over for salaries he pointed out.
“Even if we do this, it’s not going to give us a plethora of money,” he said.
Malavolti said board members have opted out of their stipends for the past several years due to budgetary concerns, so they aren’t unsympathetic to sheriff’s office employees.
“The board understands and commends every one of you for your service,” he said.
According to Haage, that just isn’t good enough.
Why isn’t the money there?
Putnam County Board Chairman Steve Malavolti says the outdated funding formula is partly to blame.
The corporate tax rate was established around 1975, when the Counties Code was established. This was a set rate by population, but, was never tied to inflation. Therefore when cost of services, manpower and insurance goes up every year, the rate does not keep up. Putnam County’s rate is at 0.37%
If one was to put .37 in an inflation calculator at www.inflationcalc.com, the rate would have been 1.48% in 2019..
If this rate was established to sort of keep pace with inflation, many counties would not be struggling to maintain basic services and police protection.
Kim Shute can be reached at (815) 879-5200 or email@example.com Follow her on Twitter at NT_Princeton2