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KCC refuses to end KCSO ‘Chinese overtime’

But grants first KCSD millage increase since 2009

Posted: June 27, 2013 4:43 p.m.
Updated: June 28, 2013 5:00 a.m.

A practice known as “Chinese overtime” will continue at the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) for the foreseeable future. As part of its vote on the county’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget Tuesday, Kershaw County Council declined to provide the KCSO with additional funding to end the practice of paying deputies approximately half-time for each hour of overtime they work.”

“For the past several days, I have given it much thought as to whether or not I should come before you in this public forum. I wondered rather or not what I had to say would do any good and change any minds,” Matthews said during the meeting’s public comments section. “As you know, I initially requested that county council provide the sheriff’s (office) with funding for four additional deputies and two investigators. This is the same request I have made every year. This year I have withdrawn this request, replacing it with a request for funding to pay my officers a fair and equitable overtime wage.”

Matthews has said he has lost five officers due to poor overtime compensation and salaries, which he said are less than other counties. Matthews said the deputies he has lost are relocating to other counties which pay their officers “significantly more money” than the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office. He also said that the KCSO is having trouble recruiting officers to come work for the department due to wages because it is “widely known” what deputies are being paid for overtime.

“Would you? I seriously doubt that anyone on council would,” Matthews told council.

The sheriff also referred to the current system of pay as being a “slap in the face” to those currently employed. Matthews listed a couple of alternatives to the “Chinese Overtime” system, including a 6 percent increase in pay to all deputies below chief deputy. He estimated that would be approximately $190,000, and said it would be the cheapest of all options.

Another alternative Matthews suggested was what he referred to as “straight time” or a “step plan” which would compensate deputies forced to work overtime or come in on their normal day off with their normal hourly wages. He said this would total around $335,000.

The final alternative Matthews brought forward is to pay officers time and a half for overtime, which he said would total around $548,000. Matthews said this is what most Kershaw County employees are paid for overtime. He said, however, that his estimates are for the highest possible costs and either alternative could cost significantly less.

The cost to adopt the pricier of the options would be a 2.5 mill increase and the others would be less.

“A 2-1/2 mill increase boils down to an 84-cent a month tax increase to the owner of a $100,000 home … you cannot even buy a bottle of water for 84 cents,” Matthews said.

The sheriff said he had spoken privately with several councilmen about what he fears will happen if these funding requests aren’t met. He also said that it is having a negative impact now and will in the future.

“Law enforcement isn’t what it used to be. We cannot just give someone a badge and a gun and tell them to go out and police the county,” Matthews said.

Councilman Sammie Tucker offered an amendment to the budget in favor of giving Matthews enough funding for two deputies and one school resource officer (SRO) at ATEC at a total cost of $219,000. The motion failed to be seconded.

As to why he offered an amendment regarding personnel slots and not Matthews’ overtime funding request, Tucker said Thursday that “it was the most reasonable thing to do without raising the millage.”

“It (the amendment Tucker did offer) would have kicked us off and from there we could have continued to make progress and had more dialogue about the situation,” Tucker said.

Councilman Jimmy Jones said that he was not supporting Matthews’ request because, “from his own experience,” overtime could be the most abused system. In a follow up phone call Wednesday, Jones referred to it as something that “has to be managed with a microscope.”

Thursday, Matthews said that “everything has the potential for abuse.” He referenced guns, cars and other items as things that could be abused but said that “just because something could be a problem doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.”

“It has to be monitored,” Matthews said.

At the council meeting, Jones said that now is not the time for Matthews’ requested increase and “we need to learn to live within our means.” Jones also said that council has given the KCSO approximately $1 million in the past couple of years.

“We have been very generous with giving funds to the sheriff’s office,” Jones said.

Matthews said that the money that council has given to the sheriff’s office were for things that they should have been funding anyway.

“This is necessary to the safety and welfare of our community,” Matthews said.

Jones said council isn’t who should be blamed for the financial situation at the sheriff’s office.

“I do get tired of hearing county council blamed,” Jones said. “The people of this community will have to pay money to fund requests such as these. We couldn’t raise taxes enough to fund everything that Matthews is asking for.”

Jones also said he was confused as to what Matthews actually needed. “Which is it? Manpower or overtime?” said Jones. “I thought he needed manpower so I’m a little confused.”

Matthews said Thursday that he is disappointed in council’s decision but will continue to fight for his employees.

“I’m going to continue to fight for my guys because it’s the right thing to do,” Matthews said. “Our employees deserve to be treated fairly. I don’t understand why we have to be an exception. I’m going to continue to stick up for them.”

Jones said that the current overtime system has been in place for more than 25 years.

Various other budget amendments were proposed by council members such as reinstating funding for contributing agencies including Historic Camden, the Community Medical Center and the Board of Disabilities and Special Needs. Reinstating these funds would total around $74,000. Tucker said that council supports these agencies that do a “phenomenal job” for the county every year but that funds weren’t currently in the 2013-14 budget.

Tucker also requested to fund the solicitors office and detention center, to reinstate a U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife program, and to completely fund SROs for the city of Camden. Tucker said that the funding of all of these rounds to around $309,448.

Tucker’s proposal failed on 3-3 tie with Tucker, Vice Chairman Stephen Smoak and Councilman Tom Gardner voting in favor; Jones, Miles and Councilman Willie Mickle voted “no.”

Other amendments brought up included one from Miles for council to give $88,000 to the county’s fire services. The motion failed for lack of a second.

When the time came for council to approve the budget, there were several second of silence as Smoak -- acting as council chairman in Chairman Gene Wise’s absence -- asked for a motion.

“Gentleman, we need a budget,” Smoak said.

Finally, Jones made a motion to adopt the third reading of the budget with Mickle seconding the motion.

“I do support eliminating the existing overtime system… and I do support providing straight time overtime… I’d like to continue to try to work towards trying to eliminate that…I think it’s the right thing to do.” Smoak said. “Nevertheless, we do need a budget and as we already saw in a 3-3 vote earlier we have some different opinions about the priorities of the county and what our needs are and how to fund those needs… we need a budget, our county needs to run, and our employees would like to be paid in July.”

The budget passed 5-1, with Tucker opposing.

“It’s a sad day when we can’t take care of our own county employees,” Tucker said, referring to KCSO deputies.

Meanwhile, council did pass, 4-2, the KCSD’s request for an additional 3.4 mills. Jones and Miles voted against the measure. Kershaw County School Board of Trustees Chairman Mara Jones, who is Councilman Jones’ wife, said that the money from the millage would go towards an increase in fine arts, languages, related arts and bringing more teachers back in the classroom in the middle schools and high schools. The 3.5 mill increase will provide the school district with an additional $300,000, according to County Administrator Vic Carpenter.

Carpenter said that under state law, each county and school district has separate guidelines to follow regarding their budgets. The power is divided between the county and the school district and in Kershaw County’s case, the school district sets its own budget but millage has to be approved by a majority of council, and will not go into effect until the fall. This is the first time council has authorized additional millage for the school district since 2009.

In other business:

• Council passed, 5-1, a resolution approving an intergovernmental agreement between the county and the city of Camden to provide SROs to Camden High School, Camden Middle School and the Continuous Learning Center. Tucker cast the lone “no” vote due to, he said, a gap of $10,000 between the amount the city is receiving and what the KCSO originally received for those three slots. The difference is, reportedly, due to training expenses. The agreement gives $188,835 to the city to fund SROs in the city schools. Carpenter said the city passed an identical agreement.

• Kershaw County Coroner Johnny Fellers presented Deputy Coroner Doris McGougan with the S.C. Coroner’s Association Deputy Coroner of the Year Award.

• Council unanimously passed third and final reading of an ordinance amending the unified code of Zoning and Land Development Regulations regarding permitted and conditional uses and off street parking.

Carpenter also introduced Kurt Arnold who will be the county’s new chief assessor.

“I look forward to serving the people of Kershaw County,” Arnold said.

Carpenter also introduced new Kershaw County Recreation Department Director Joe Eason.

Jones commended Carpenter on his work in not only finding Arnold and Eason to fill positions in the county but also other choices during the past couple of years.

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