STANTON — The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners on Monday will consider a recommendation to set a lower rate for municipalities to contract with sheriff’s deputies than the sheriff would prefer.
The county’s Finance & Personnel Committee on April 10 voted to recommend the full board approve setting all contract rates for deputies at $75,000 starting in 2019. Sheriff Mike Williams had asked commissioners to set the rate at $79,000.
Commissioner John Johansen of Montcalm Township made the motion to set a lower rate, saying he was concerned local municipalities might decide not to contract with the sheriff’s department in the future if rates continue to increase. Williams noted Eureka Township has been contracting with the sheriff’s department since the 1990s, despite regular rate increases.
Local municipalities are currently paying the following annual rates to the sheriff’s department to contract for deputies:
• Village of Edmore: $73,950
• Eureka, Montcalm and Sidney townships: $73,950 (scheduled to increase to $75,000 in 2018)
• Crystal Township: $75,000 (one-year contract)
• Village of Howard City: $73,960 (scheduled to increase to $75,000 in 2018)
According to Williams, the deputy contract rate in 2010 was $68,200, meaning the cost for local municipalities will have increased by less than 10 percent from 2010 to 2019 (depending on how commissioners vote on Monday).
Williams thinks a set rate of $79,000 per year for all municipalities in 2019 is a fair price, noting costs will almost certainly be higher two years from now. He estimates the true cost is more than $90,000 when he includes vehicles, gas and maintenance, equipment, radios, training, records management, supervisory time, overtime costs and other factors.
“The costs have gone up so some of that has to be passed down the pipe, but they’re still getting a good deal,” Williams said. “This is vastly cheaper than them going out and doing it on their own.”
“Well, there’s a contingency out there that’s saying it’s not a good deal at all, it’s the county’s responsibility, they’ve been paying taxes and they’re expecting law enforcement coverage,” Johansen said. “If that voice gets strong enough, I’m concerned we’re going to start losing those contracts.”
Commissioner Ron Baker of Howard City voted “no” on Johansen’s motion.
“The constituents in the Panhandle are very happy with what they’re paying and are willing to step forward and pay to have deputies,” Baker said. “They’re very happy with the police presence in the Panhandle.”
Williams emphasized he just wants the county to reach consistency across the board with all deputy-municipality contracts.
“In fairness, they should all be the same because they’re all getting the same service,” he said. “Let’s just set it at one rate.”
The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners will vote on the motion to set the overall rate at $75,000 starting in 2019 during Monday’s regular meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at the Montcalm County Administrative Building in Stanton. Anyone may attend.