Sheriff requests 30 percent budget increase from county

WEST JACKSON, Tenn. — The Madison County Sheriff’s Department is asking for more money–despite the uncertainty around the coronavirus.

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“We’re sitting here, pulling from other departments, to increase the fund balance, because we feel threatened by a department that’s hogging the budget. It’s not fair to the taxpayers,” said Karen Bell, the Finance Director for Madison County.

Wednesday afternoon’s budget hearings for Madison County resulted in arguments over the sheriff’s budget.

In the meetings, which are scheduled throughout the week, departments are being asked to make their request for next year’s budget.

Sheriff John Mehr proposed a budget increase of over $2.8 million. An almost 30% increase from the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

“You have to understand that the budget that we’re under right now is the budget that y’all placed, that we agreed to,” said Madison County Sheriff John Mehr.

The county instructed every department to try and cut three percent for this coming year. The sheriff says he did cut three percent. But it was from his budget request, not his current operating budget.

Members of the commission were not happy with his proposal.

“Your smaller departments have done an excellent job with their budgets on trying to make reductions. With the exception of one player in the game,”Bell said.

This comes only a day after the sheriff’s department revealed their new medical care provider for the jail would cost more than planned — several hundred thousand dollars more.

The sheriff’s budget has big increases in categories like medical supplies for inmates, vehicle maintenance, and food supplies.

Bell said most departments have complied with the county’s request to factor in cuts. The nearly $12 million request would increase the sheriff’s budget to almost $25 million.

“We’ve made many reductions. Many, maybe painfully for some of these, I don’t know. To build up a fund balance to allow one department to have the funds,” Bell said.

The sheriff is currently engaged in a lawsuit with the county over a budget that he says does not allow him to fulfill his obligations.

Over the past six years, the sheriff’s budget has gone up $6.5 million, more than any other department in the county by far.

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