As previously reported in the Republic-Times, Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann and Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing asked for an increase in their overall budgets at recent hearings before the Monroe County Board.
With the fiscal year set to start Dec. 1, the county board is expected to approve its next budget before the end of this month.
Hitzemann and Rohlfing each explained to the Republic-Times in what areas their proposed budgets increased and why they requested additional funds.
Hitzemann increased his budget request by $85,000, up to $432,034.42.
Rohlfing proposed the county raise his budget $155,986.61 from the previous fiscal year. For fiscal year 2017, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department expended $2,987,369.52.
Hitzemann’s increases came from asking for money to hire a second assistant state’s attorney and an investigator.
The assistant state’s attorney would make $65,000 annually, while the investigator would work part-time as a contract employee and make $20,000.
For Rohlfing’s department, his increases come primarily from wanting to hire an assistant director of building maintenance, performing radio maintenance and acquiring new portable radios.
Those expenses would increase costs by $47,000, $14,075 and $72,629.55, respectively.
Hitzemann outlined several reasons he needed the additional funding.
One of those was that his office is one of the least funded in the area. Using the latest available data, the Monroe County State’s Attorney’s budget is almost $60,000 less than the slightly smaller Randolph County and more than $150,000 less than the slightly larger Clinton County.
That means that, in the previous fiscal year, Monroe County residents paid $9.86 per year to the office, compared to $12.18 per year in Randolph County and $13.04 in Clinton County.
Hitzemann’s proposed budget would mean a resident would pay $12.67 per year for his department.
Hitzemann also highlighted that it cost taxpayers an average of $529.63 per case to try the county’s 635 cases last year. That is the lowest of any other county Hitzemann compared his office to by at least $92.52 per case.
Additionally, Hitzemann explained his office is seeing an increase in work for a number of reasons.
His office has seen an increase in traffic tickets, in part because of more efforts to patrol Route 3 in Columbia.
Hitzemann reported the Columbia Police Department had performed 1,595 traffic arrests as of late September, more than 2017 or 2016 altogether. Many of those tickets are for running red lights, and those people are more likely to ask for a trial.
The calls for service countywide have also gone up, with Hitzemann saying the Waterloo Police Department, CPD and MCSD are on pace to have 38,000 to 40,000 calls this year.
By comparison, Randolph County is on pace for 24,453 calls for service in 2018, according to Hitzemann.
Hitzemann then discussed how Monroe County is attracting more tourism.
“Waterloo’s downtown has become a destination with two microbreweries, and we have new restaurants and attractions popping up all over the county,” he said. “People are coming to Monroe County that hadn’t previously, and they’re driving to get here and back home. We’ve seen increased DUI cases and felony drug cases for out-of-county residents as a result.”
Hitzemann said his office is on pace for 221 felony cases this year, up 81 from when Hitzemann was elected in 2016. It is on pace for 156 DUI cases.
Hitzemann also said proactive policing around the county leads to more arrests and crimes solved, further increasing his workload.
The last reason Hitzemann highlighted was civil asset forfeiture, which allows Hitzemann’s office to seize items used in crimes, like automobiles.
“If people coming into our county know that they may lose their car when they drive here to commit crimes, it’s quite a deterrent,” Hitzemann noted. “With an additional assistant state’s attorney, we can file more of these cases and add this extra level of deterrent, while recouping some of our costs with forfeiture funds coming back to the county.”
The additional assistant would also help with increased case load, he said.
The investigator would assist with witness coordination, witness interviews, trial preparation and service of subpoenas.
Currently, that is done by the police departments, so having an investigator would allow those agencies to spend more time solving crimes.
“I believe the actual increase of numbers, and the analysis that we pay significantly less for our state’s attorney office per taxpayer and per case than surrounding counties is revealing,” Hitzemann said. “(I) asked that my office be able to keep pace with our department’s increased focus on safety and patrols, as evidenced by the increased cases and calls for service.”
“Not only do we have increased numbers, but we’re pursuing and prosecuting the cases that are charged,” he added.
For Rohlfing’s part, he said he needs the new assistant director of maintenance because the current one is off work due to a non-work related injury and it is unknown when he will return.
Furthermore, the current maintenance director is set to retire in June, so this person would have on-the-job training with the current director before he retires.
In the case of the radio maintenance, Rohlfing said that cost needed to increase as the county has added more and newer equipment. It will also now be responsible for more maintenance costs instead of the company covering more of them.
Finally, Rohlfing said the new portable radios would be a smart purchase for multiple reasons.
“Currently, Motorola is offering a discount of 40 percent off mobile and portable radios if we purchase with St. Clair County,” he explained. “My recommendation is to replace all portable radios due to us having three fail this year. With the failures, it presents a high liability for the county knowing that we are having issues.”
Rohlfing also said the current radios will not work with an upgraded system due to the encryption.
Like Hitzemann, Rohlfing also highlighted his department getting busier.
When he was elected in 2014, the sheriff’s department received 6,117 calls for service. In 2017, it took 13,251 calls.
Similarly, it has seen its arrests for unlawful possession of a controlled substance or methamphetamine go from one in 2014 to 22 in 2017.
Traffic stops are also on the rise, with the MCSD making 519 stops in 2014 and 2,014 in 2017.
Rohlfing also pointed out the county may need to add on to the jail due to it being relatively small and 30 years old.
Finally, Rohlfing touted the money the sheriff’s department makes from being a member of a DEA task force and housing federal inmates.
It has made $235,442.11 and $384,339.52 from those efforts, respectively.
According to Rohlfing, his department costs $76.65 per resident per year.