JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. -- A Johnson County internal audit showed some sheriff's deputies are getting paid in six digit figures in overtime.
$218,692. That's how much one master deputy received in overtime across a three-year period. That's only one of 13 Johnson County deputies who earned more than $80,000 in overtime. That's in a recently released county audit.
According to the audit, 13 deputies received a total of $1.3 million in overtime pay. The audit examined the increasing amount of overtime hours and rising budget costs in the sheriff’s department.
"We budget about 4 to 4.5 million a year for overtime," said Commission Chairman Ed Eilert. "It was no surprise that the to hours were going up. The sheriff’s department had advised us last year in 2013 and we had to dip into reserves to provide additional funding."
The sheriff requested another $3 million to fund what he calls a shortfall.
"We’re underfunded and agreed to go in underfunded and then agreed to pay the bills at the end of the year, if you will, knowing that the to will be an issue," said Sheriff Frank Denning.
But Eilert doesn’t agree. The sheriff’s department had a budget of $78 million in 2014.
"The operating budget for the county is about 330 million, so that would be about 25 percent," he said.
The audit identities 13 deputies who earned upwards of $80,000 each in overtime over three years. Four of them earned more than $100,000.
"We can't continue on that path," Eilert said. "The auditors had some recommendations on how to address that and how to create a pool, an overtime pool, a relief factor so that's probably what we will be focusing our budgetary discussions on."
Eilert says he hopes the sheriff will consider hiring more civilian workers who can do the same work as a deputy but with less pay.
"If we were to do that, we would lose all that experience and lose all those years of service," Denning said. "We would probably save about $44,000 out of a $72 million budget. The need for the community is a lot greater than the savings of $44,000."
Denning said he has tried to hire at least 20 civilian workers, but there's not enough money in the 2014 budget to do so. Despite the conflict, both men agree that the need for public safety comes first.
The sheriff will meet with the commissioners in a public session on April 24 to discuss the budget.