Sheriff presents annual report

Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing continued an ongoing defense of his department during Monday’s meeting of the Monroe County Board.

During meetings over the past several months, Rohlfing has responded to public comments and expressed displeasure with what he described as a small group of people who frequently  criticize his operation of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department – budget requests in particular.

As part of his annual report to commissioners, Rohlfing on Monday offered a breakdown of how much sheriff’s department services cost the average household in Monroe County.

“Over the holidays, I had the opportunity to talk to retired (Columbia Police Department) Chief Gene Henckler,” Rohlfing began,  explaining Henckler had a similar issue with a resident frequenting Columbia City Council meetings to criticize the police budget.

“(Henckler) finally just did the calculations to figure out what the police budget costs each resident, so I did that for the sheriff’s department budget,” Rohlfing continued.

Based on an estimated county population of 35,000 people, the MCSD costs each person 36 cents per day or $131.69 per year, according to Rohlfing.

He gave two other figures in the interest of “transparency,” pointing out that many of the younger Monroe County residents do not pay property taxes. 

Based on the 14,789 housing units in Monroe County in July 2022, Rohlfing said the daily expense for MCSD services is 85 cents per day or $311.96 per year. With sheriff’s department revenue for 2023 included, the cost drops to 70 cents per day or  $252.27 per year.

“Public safety costs money,” Rohlfing concluded, adding he believed it was a “very low cost for the county.”

Board chairman George Green concurred, noting the sheriff’s department ended the prior fiscal year about $100,000 under budget and saying Rohlfing has always submitted “fair” budgets for consideration.

Commissioner Vicki Koerber commended the sheriff’s department and Monroe County State’s Attorney’s Office for splitting the cost of a “shared” investigator to assist with new pre-trial requirements of the SAFE-T Act rather than each department requesting its own additional  personnel.

During his report, Rohlfing said several departments will be “toeing the line” in regard to operations and budget planning until the ramifications of the new cashless bail system become clearer later this year.

Rohlfing also emphasized that MCSD calls for service have increased dramatically in the past 13 years – from 6,085 in 2010 and 9,971 in 2015 to 15,835 in 2023.

“The calls for service are not going away,” Rohlfing said.

Similarly, total traffic stops by the sheriff’s department are up 800 percent from 2010 – 2,697 in 2023 and 299 in 2010 – and up over 200 percent from 2015 when deputies were involved in 1,214 traffic stops. 

The largest amount of stops were the 3,390 in 2021, but Rohlfing explained his department had received a grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation to increase patrol on the Route 3 corridor, especially in the northern end of the county where there had been fatal crashes.

Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein also reported to commissioners with an update on the 2022 tax cycle. 

After the second payment date in late December, 97.6 percent of property taxes have been collected.

Koenigstein said certified letters would be sent the last week in January to property owners who are delinquent in payment, with a tax sale scheduled for late February for those properties with outstanding tax debt.  

In other action, commissioners approved spending $16,218.85 out of the county’s contingency fund to install a new generator on the courthouse grounds to provide backup to the county’s 9-1-1 and dispatching center.

The generator is expected to be placed in mid-April.

The plan for the current mobile generator is to have it repaired and placed in service at the Monroe County Annex and Monroe County EMS facility in Waterloo sometime in 2025.

“It’s a win-win,” Monroe County Public Safety Director Kevin Scheibe said, adding the generator will allow the annex building to be used as a heating/cooling shelter in the event of a natural disaster in addition to providing backup power to EMS.

During a special meeting Dec. 29, commissioners approved an ordinance establishing paid leave practices for employees in the Monroe County Courthouse.

The action was taken ahead of the Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers Act, which requires all employers to provide 40 hours of paid leave per year.

Monroe County Human Resources Specialist Missy Whittington explained the county already goes “above and beyond” what is required by the new act – which went into effect Jan. 1 – but the county needed to make “minor changes” to ensure compliance.

She also noted the annual 40 hours of mandatory paid leave for full-time employees is “use-it-or-lose-it,” and accrued paid time off for existing employees will be “grandfathered” in.

The next regular meeting of the Monroe County Board will be 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16, at the Monroe County Courthouse. 

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Scott Woodsmall

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