Posted 10/26/11 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
The approval of McKenzie County’s Budget for 2012 has Sheriff Ron Rankin excited.
“When you’re trying to plan for the year ahead and make a budget, you give it your best guess based on the last year’s numbers and go from there,” states Rankin.
That being the case, 2011 was filled with number-crushing events that caught many county departments off-guard.
One of the most interesting budget-crushing line items for Sheriff Rankin was prisoner expense.
“When someone is taken prisoner, they are in the care of the Sheriff’s Dept.,” states Rankin. “For as long as they are in the county’s custody, we are responsible for their medical and dental expenses.”
Rankin shares that medical expenses can range on anything from a clinic visit to paying for a prisoner’s MRI.
Prisoner medical and dental costs have always fallen on the department to cover. But when you consider that now the jail can have anywhere from two to four prisoners every Monday (from people who have been arrested over the weekend), that is a lot more to be responsible for.
In fact, according to Rankin, the jail is seeing so many more faces than it used to that he has started sending prisoners to the jail in Williston on a weekly basis, if he knows they will be there for more than 48 hours.
“The jail can only house nine prisoners, so if we know they are going to be here for more than two days, we send them to Williston in order to make room,” states Rankin.
Rankin states that they have sent prisoners to the Williams County Jail prior to the boom, but did not have to do it very often.
“It would be about one or two a month,” states Rankin. “However, now it’s almost weekly.”
Last year, Rankin states that he budgeted $35,000 for prisoner expenses. As of September of this year, he has already spent $66,000.
“For the 2012 budget, we boosted the prisoner expense line item to $90,000,” states Rankin.
Another big hike in expense for the department’s budget is for the hiring of four new deputies.
“The first year a deputy is with the department is the most expensive year,” Rankin states. “The department has to purchase the new deputy’s uniform, gun, rifle, and vehicle.”
Rankin says that the average deputy salary for the first year is around $89,000.
With the increased traffic and accidents, these new deputies will be helping to patrol county roads, and one of the new hires will be assigned truck regulatory duties. This deputy will be responsible for weighing semis on the road and making sure they are following state guidelines.
“I have just finished hiring the new deputies, two of which have already started,” states Rankin. “The other two will start by the end of the month.”
Last year, the Sheriff’s Department budget was $1.3 million with the county commissioners increasing the department’s 2012 budget to $1.4 million.
According to Rankin, he didn’t have any trouble justifying to the county commissioners the need for a budget increase.
“It helps that we have already exceeded certain line items, like prisoner expense,” Rankin states. “But the fact that call volumes and traffic accident reports have nearly tripled in the last year also shows the need for more deputies on the road.”
Rankin concludes by saying that he has talked with other sheriffs in the state and the McKenzie County County Commissioners are a great set of leaders.
“It makes my job a lot easier,” states Rankin.