Union County Sheriff Rocky Nelson has requested funding for 2012 that would enable him to rehire deputies laid off during the past year's budget cuts.

Union County Sheriff Rocky Nelson has requested funding for 2012 that would enable him to rehire deputies laid off during the past year's budget cuts.

The county commissioners still have to review Nelson's budget proposal and those of other county departments as part of the current tax budget process,

Nelson's proposed budget asks for funding in the amount of $650,000 to reinstate 10 deputies who were laid off earlier this year.

Nelson said there has been some confusion in the community over the request, because of a published report that incorrectly indicated he already has the authority to reinstate the deputies.

The funds in the tax budget are a proposal and have not been approved, he said.

"The heart of it is, the commissioners asked for a tax budget, and I gave them what I'd like to see in my budget it's a request," Nelson said. "And in my request I just naturally asked to get my 10 guys back."

He realizes the commissioners have the budget of every department in the county to consider, Nelson said, but he said he would be neglecting his job if he didn't at least provide them the opportunity to return the laid-off deputies.

"After they look at the numbers for the entire county, if they can meet this request it would be great, but I think it would be irresponsible of me not to at least ask," Nelson said. "Being a realist, I understand that the county has not been responding well with the money issues, and I understand that that probably will not happen.

"That's (the commissioners') responsibility, to look at everyone's requests and say 'yes' or 'no,'" he said.

Commissioner Gary Lee said decisions on the departments' tax budgets have not yet been finalized.

"I expected (Nelson) to let us know what that cost would be to bring all the deputies back. When I say we accepted his budget I mean we took those figures from him - we haven't acted on it," Lee said. "This is part of our planning process."

Lee said that aside from the dollars allocated for personnel, Nelson's proposed tax budget is identical to the previous year's budget.

As the process continues, the county commissioners will adopt a tax budget on July 15 and send it to the budget commission, which will go over the document until Sept. 1. Once the budget commission has completed a review of the tax budget, that document will rest until the commissioners approve the next year's temporary budget in November. The budget will continually change as the commissioners meet with department heads and discuss individual funding requests and prioritize them, Lee explained.

Nelson said that if the proposal is approved as written, he could reinstate the 10 laid-off Sheriff's deputies in January 2011.

Lee said that while he doesn't like the fact that Nelson's office is down 23 positions (including the 10 deputies), other county employees have felt the county's financial problems as well.

"We also had employees who took a 3.8-percent salary cut and in our tax budget we also looked at what it would take to return those people to their 2009 salaries," Lee said.

The recent lay-offs at the Sheriff's office in March constitute a 32-percent reduction in staffing for the office over the past two years. According to Nelson, the cuts were in part the result of pay raises that were kept by the three labor unions at the Sheriff's office.

The Fraternal Order of Police Ohio Labor Council (FOP/OLC) represents deputies, dispatchers, sergeants and corporals. Last winter the unions voted to keep pay increases of 14 percent for deputies, 13.5 percent for dispatchers and 11.7 percent for sergeants and corporals, as negotiated in a three-year contract, which took effect in 2008. The pay increases were larger in 2010 because of wage concessions made by the labor unions in 2009, according to Nelson.

In 2009, the deputy's union voted to take no pay increase, whereas the sergeants, corporals and dispatchers all voted to take a 2.5-percent increase over the 2008 wages.

lrice@thisweeknews.com