|PROTECTING OUR FUTURE: The Need for a Full Time Prosecutor in Livingston County
Our County Commission has been studying data regarding the Prosecuting Attorney's office. We have examined the case load of the Prosecutor's office compared to other counties as well as what other counties near our size and assessed valuations have in terms of staff in their Prosecutor's office.
Currently our Prosecutor's job is a half time job. However as we compare with other counties, we find that almost all counties our size or larger and with similar case loads have full time Prosecuting attorneys. Here are the results of those findings.
The County Commission voted to put before the voters on the ballot this April the expansion of our Prosecutor's position from part time to full time. This vote does not require a tax increase.
Here are the reasons that we believe justify the expansion of this position.
1) The work load and size of our county justifies the recommendation as described above.
2) The full time position means that over time we will get a more complete job done and means we have a better position to attract the best and most qualified candidate for the job.
3) Lower jail costs than projected from our long-range plan that we believe can more than pay for the increased cost of the position. In 2015, we budgeted 43 prisoners per day at $30 per day for 365 days a year for a total cost of $470,000. Our jail cost at the Daviess/DeKalb was raised to $34 per day and will be raised to $40 per day early this year. Our 7-year forecast is that prisoner cost will increase up to $441,000 per year if our prisoner count goes to 50 prisoners per day and the cost goes to $50 per day. Starting in 2015, our County Commission met with our judges, sheriff, and prosecutor to see what we could do to contain these costs. All of these people have contributed to a reduction in daily prisoners for the last two years, but by far the work of our prosecutor's office has done the most to reduce this cost. Beginning in 2015, our prosecutor began having weekly meetings with his staff to see what could be done to speed up each particular case. He also requested from the judges an extra half day per month for trials from 1 full day per month to 1 and a half day per month. As a result of these efforts, the average disposition of felony cases from arrest to trial in Livingston County was 48 days in 2016, by far the lowest in the entire state. As an example of how much difference this makes, the other counties in our circuit had the following average disposition days; Caldwell (80), Clinton (330), Daviess (107), DeKalb (128). This makes a huge difference in total prisoner days and in 2017 lowered our prisoner per day by 12 plus less than budget which based on $34 per day and 365 days saved our budget $160,000 last year. The additional cost of a full time prosecutor considering salary, withholding for Social Security and Medicare and retirement benefits is approximately double what it cost for a part time prosecutor. But based on last year, we saved much more than that amount. Further, we believe that the full time position will allow our prosecutor to save some additional dollars as he has more time to focus on ways to continue to reduce our jail costs.
4) It is important for us as a county to arrest and prosecute the criminals in our county. This makes our county a better place to live. We have to put the appropriate resources into these areas to allow us to keep criminals off the street. A full time Prosecutor is necessary to do the job properly.
In summary, the size of our county, the case load of our county and the savings to our long term prisoner costs are the reasons that the County Commission voted to put this in front of the voters in April to expand the Prosecutor's position to a full time position. (Again this does not require a tax increase.) If the voters approve this, the full-time position would begin on January 1, 2019.
Thank you for your consideration. If you have questions, feel free to call us or come into the courthouse to visit with us about this issue.
RELATED C-T ARTICLE
County Voters to
Have April Issue
Livingston County voters in April will decide whether to provide for a full-time prosecuting attorney. The Livingston County Commissioners have determined that submission of the full-time prosecuting attorney's question is in the best interest of the citizens of Livingston County. There is no requirement to raise taxes to provide for the operation and proper functioning of a full-time prosecuting attorney to provide the additional Livingston County services, according to a resolution which was passed by County Commissioners Ed Douglas, Alvin Thompson and David Mapel.
The ballot language will be as follows: Full-Time Prosecutor Ballot Question - Shall the office of prosecuting attorney be made a full-time position in Livingston County? Voters will be asked to vote "Yes" or "No."
The position currently is a part-time position that is held by Adam Warren. The current salary for the Livingston County prosecuting attorney is $73,825. If the ballot question is approved (needing only a simple majority), the annual salary would just about double, as determined by state statute. Presiding Commissioner Douglas said that most other counties similar in size to Livingston County or larger in terms of population, assessed valuation, number of felonies, and other aspects have full-time prosecuting attorneys. "The job is just too big for it to be a half-time position," Douglas said. The prosecuting attorney position is an elected position. The filing period for prosecuting attorney, as well as several other countywide offices, opens February 27 and closes March 27. The election is November 6, 2018.
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