The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office is requesting an approximately $1 million increase to its operating budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The department is seeking both an increase in equipment and manpower, citing an “increase in demand,” according to Sheriff Leroy Ravenell.
“Our agency has responded to this request daily, tenaciously with limited staff and resources,” Ravenell said. “This was evident most recently when within hours there were two homicides in two different parts of the county with an already short-staffed shift and only two crime scene investigators.”
“All of this while preparing to update the community on an ongoing investigation into the murder of 6-year-old Winston Hunter,” he said. “The high demand from the agency has taken a heavy toll on our staff as well as our equipment.”
As a member of the National Sheriff’s Association’s National Crime Victims Board, Ravenell said law enforcement is in high demand across the country and retaining staff and personnel has proven a challenge in a climate competitive compensation.
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Ravenell called for an increase in officer pay to help with retention.
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“We are currently operating well below the desired number of deputies for our four rotating teams which are responsible for covering the entire county,” Ravenell said. “It is our desire to have a minimum of 12 assistants on each shift.”
“This will contribute to faster response times, enable more proactive approaches, and help address agent safety issues,” Ravenell said.
Ravenell said many crimes in the county require intensive investigations that require the services of crime scene investigators.
“We only have two for the entire county and major crime investigators that we’re asking for additional staff,” Ravenell said.
The agency also requested that additional cameras be placed in the county to aid in the investigation and provide information about participants or vehicles used in the crimes. Ravenell noted that such cameras would serve well in drive-by shooting cases, as seen in the Hunter case.
The department also requested body cameras, tasers and other investigative tools.
“My agency is committed to service and will always do its best,” Ravenell said. “However, as a leader, I understand that we need help.”
Ravenell praised his staff’s efforts to serve citizens.
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“Submitting the request for additional funds is for the purpose of giving the citizens of Orangeburg County everything I can as sheriff,” Ravenell said. “It’s important to me to make sure the community knows that this budget request will put us on par with surrounding agencies and what they are currently offering.”
Orangeburg County Council and staff spent much of a special Wednesday budget workshop meeting discussing how the sheriff’s request can be met while balancing other needs in the county.
The OCSO’s annual budget is typically around $8 million to $9 million, said Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young.
Young said some of the biggest increases in the Sheriff’s Office budget requests are:
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- $71,000 for ammunition, up from $30,000 requested a year ago. The cost of ammunition due to inflation went from around $16 per box to $40 per box.
- About $44,000 for personal protective equipment, up from the $5,000 requested last year.
- An additional $50,000 for new uniforms.
- $100,000 for laboratory supplies, up from $90,000 for the current fiscal year.
- $450,000 for fuel, compared to about $356,000 for the current year.
- Weapons upgrade for department SWAT team and School Resource Officers $117,000, down from $40,000 previously. The bureau called for the upgrades to include rifles rather than the current shotguns in light of the recent school shooting in Texas.
- $75,000 for equipment, up from $25,000 previously. The request includes the purchase of pepper sprays, stun guns and batons.
Young said the increase in funding requests is proving to be a challenge, especially considering the county has seen a drop in its 2020 census counts, which means a drop in the funds it receives. from the state otherwise known as the local government fund. LGF money is allocated based on census figures.
“We’re losing $X per person because of the census drop,” Young said.
Young also said that in addition to rising fuel costs, meal costs at the prison have increased.
Young said diesel fuel now costs about $4 to $5 a gallon, about double what it was last year.
The budget was read at first reading only by its title. The second reading is in progress.
The county’s 2022-23 fiscal year begins July 1.