'Asking for more manpower': City could be paying more for law enforcement in 2014

Matt Algarin

When it comes down to the bottom line, Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley told city leaders in Destin he would need more funding in the future.

"Certainly I will be asking for more manpower in our next contract," he said during Monday night's budget workshop at the City Hall Annex.

Currently, the city of Destin has a contract with the sheriff's office for the service of 12 additional deputies that specifically patrol the city. For the 2013 fiscal year, the city paid $1,140,037.

As part of the proposed 2014 fiscal year budget, Ashley is asking city leaders to increase his budget line item to $1,194,980, which is an increase of $54,995 from the current contract.

For Councilman Jim Bagby, who has been outspoken about the cost of the contract in the past, "this is for additional service, not basic service" and he would like to see the cost of the contract reduced.

"What I've always said, and I've always maintained, is that the percentage of your department's payroll that is borne by the citizens of Destin is similar to the entire county's portion," he said. "But the point that I've made consistently over the years, as an additional service... we shouldn't overpay."

"There should not be a prorated share, which there is, for all of these other costs," Bagby added. "We shouldn't pay for your evidence folks."

Part of the problem, Ashley said, is that the population of Destin is always fluctuating, due to the number of tourists in town. He told city leaders that roughly 95 percent of the calls for service are related to visitors.

During the city's busiest times, he said there could easily be .26 deputies on patrol for every 1,000 people in the city.

"We've had record tourist populations," Ashley said.

For Councilman Jim Foreman, asking tough questions is just due diligence.

"We wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't ask these questions," he said. "This is one of our biggest ticket items."

"I think that the idea that we are going to have incremental increases like this are like anything else we are doing here," he added.

City leaders will discuss the budget more during two upcoming meetings — Sept. 3 and 17 at 6 p.m. at the City Hall Annex.

While he was serious about his department's need for additional funding from the city, Ashley kept the mood lighthearted.

"Mr. Bagby and I have had this debate over and over again," he said. "I don't think I am going to change his mind."


As part of the proposed 2014 budget, the millage rate has been tentatively set at 1.50 mils, which is an increase of 3.1 percent over the city’s 2013 budget. This is the first tax rate change since 2008 and represents the same rate residents paid in 2007. Budget Hearings are set Sept. 3 and 17 at 6 p.m. at the City Hall Annex. The public is welcome to attend.