Rising costs force sheriff’s office to raise Edgerton’s contract rate for 2024

By Jennifer McDaniel
Gardner News

With the cost of doing business increasing exponentially for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, sheriff’s officials and Edgerton City Council members met last month to determine the best option for tackling rising expenses while still protecting the community.

As the city begins budget planning for 2024, Edgerton city officials and sheriff’s officials met face to face during an April 27 work session to discuss how rate increases could affect the city’s contract with the law enforcement agency.

Since the city does not have its own police department, officials contract with the sheriff’s office to provide policing services. The agreement is renewed annually.

Each year, the sheriff’s office normally provides a budget estimate in January for the upcoming year’s contract. But with costs rising significantly this year, sheriff’s officials notified the city they were expecting higher than normal increases for 2024, to the tune of about 35 percent, initially. As a result, the council conducted a work session in January to determine its goals for community policing services as well as how much of an increase the city could afford. The April work session was part of that ongoing discussion.

Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden explained how an increasing county population, ever-expanding industrial areas and semi-trailer traffic were prompting the need for more law enforcement in areas like Edgerton.

“We want to make sure our stakeholders are taken care of,” Hayden said. “…We want to make sure we’re able to stay up on enforcement.”

Hayden said his office’s costs have increased significantly, noting a recent increase in deputy salaries, which raised wages between 18–22 percent.

“We’ve increased our officers’ salaries,” he said. “…Got a pretty good bump, which cost me every bit of political capital I had, and it’s still not enough. Our contractual costs like food and medical at the jail is well over $1 million.”

To handle those rising costs, Hayden said the agency is eyeing other options since it was not benefiting from county sales tax revenue. One of those, he said, was capturing a percentage of the budget and having its own taxing authority similar to local libraries or parks.

“Not that we could up taxes, but we’d have a certain amount set for public safety, and we could control our own budget,” Hayden said. “Right now, we have to beg for everything.”

“They’re throwing money at a lot of other things, and it’s not public safety. They say it’s their No. 1 priority, but it’s not.”

Referring to the findings of a recent City of Edgerton Citizens Survey, Hayden said the No. 1 priority among residents was keeping the city safe while the top priority among county officials was diversity, equity and inclusion.

While the sheriff’s office contracts with Edgerton and De Soto to provide policing services, other Johnson County law enforcement agencies also use their services. Hayden told council members that county commissioners wanted his office to recoup the cost for providing those services.

“What they want us to do is get full recovery from the cities, until I mention the fact, ‘Wait a minute, we dispatch for a whole bunch of cities, and we don’t send them the bill,’” he said. “We don’t bill for the crime lab or the SWAT team…so they want us to get full recovery from our people, but it’s impossible to do because that’s not what we’re in business for. If those guys walked away from their cities, we’d have to take it, and we have to be prepared for that. So, that’s the battle we’re fighting.”

The need for additional deputies, he added, should be paid for by county taxpayers and not local governments.

“If we need extra cops, that shouldn’t be on you,” Hayden said. “Our county is growing. We’ve got to have some more cops. More businesses are being brought in. We need some more cops. That should fall on the county taxpayers.

“We’re not going to get full costs recovered because we’re Johnson County, and we work for the citizens of this county…about 600,000 now, and our job is to work for you. I don’t work for the county commission. I’m getting tired of begging them, but that’s another day.”

For the 2023 contract year, the city is paying the sheriff’s office $490,326, which includes a community officer, overtime and policing services. Sheriff’s official Brian Seidler explained how older figures were used when calculating average salaries, which skewed the numbers. By figuring in the recent pay raise, the numbers reflected a 4 percent salary increase, and an overall increase of 23 percent not 35 percent as officials previously indicated.

While the amount was lower, city officials said it simply was not feasible. Instead, officials suggested increasing the contract amount to 10 percent next year and 5 percent for the next five years, which was eventually agreed upon. However, no formal action was taken.

City officials, however, stressed the need for the sheriff’s office to provide more data to back up the increased costs. They also pushed for an increased law enforcement presence — something residents said they wanted to see improve over the next two years.