SNOW HILL– The cost of body cameras and increased trainings and evaluations is expected to increase spending for the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office by more than $500,000 in the coming fiscal year.
In a budget work session Tuesday, Worcester County Sheriff’s Office officials reviewed spending for the coming year with the Worcester County Commissioners. The biggest new expense in the budget is $493,883 for camera equipment.
“This is because all Maryland law enforcement agencies are required to be fully functional with body worn cameras by July of 2025,” Sheriff Matt Crisafulli said. “We are requesting the first installment funding in FY 23 to take advantage of the lowest purchase price.”
Crisafulli presented the commissioners with a $10.2 million budget request for fiscal year 2023, up 8% from the current year. While much of the increase was tied to cameras, which cost close to $500,000, spending is also set to increase in personnel, as the office wants to hire two civilian employees to support the camera program.
“These positions will be responsible for camera footage monitoring and submission to our state’s attorney’s office for cases needing to be brought to trial, as well as viewing and redacting footage as required for FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests from civilians, other agencies and the media,” Crisafulli said. “Because extensive training will be required for these positions, we are requesting approval to hire these two civilian positions in FY 23.”
Crisafulli said state mandates were also forcing the office to spend more in other categories.
“The state has also significantly increased requirements for both continuing education and psychological services for all of my sworn personnel,” he said. “We have adjusted our cost increase total to span two years. This will allow us to accommodate half of our units each on alternate fiscal cycles.”
Crisafulli told the commissioners because of the increases he’d tried to reduce or defer requests for vehicles and equipment. He also asked them to keep in mind the importance of recruitment and retention as other agencies began to offer hiring incentives.
“Just for comparison, the Ocean City Police Department is set to offer a 26% increase over the span of the next three years for recruitment,” he said. “For retention of the excellent men and women of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office I just ask you to keep that in mind.”
During Tuesday’s work session the commissioners also heard from Worcester County Jail Warden Fulton Holland. While the jail’s $9.7 million proposed budget is slightly less than the current year’s spending, commissioners said they expected to see more of a reduction. The jail is set to see a significant decrease in inmates now that Maryland has banned local jails from working with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“I want us to have a plan where this loss of half your population is reflected in the cost of running the operation,” Commissioner Jim Bunting said.
Holland said that because of COVID and the related quarantine and isolation practices, the entire facility was still being used.
“We do have a lot of decreases but the facility still has to operate,” he said.
Holland said that despite the reduction in inmates, he was anticipating an increase in medical expenses. Much of that relates to drug use.
“Immigration, they were coming in from other facilities,” Holland said. “They went through their withdrawal prior to coming to us. The arrests we’re making in Ocean City and different people coming in, homeless people and people on drugs, it’s totally different.”
The commissioners are set to host a second budget work session March 29. Because the budget presented earlier this month included an $11 million shortfall, the commissioners have asked the county’s department heads to suggest reductions.