WESTMINSTER — Sheriff John H. Brown says he knows this is not the year to ask for a 15 percent budget increase, but he also says he has no choice.
"I'm trying to put Band-Aids on the scars I was left here with," said Brown, who has asked the county for a 24.8 percent increase in the sheriff services budget and a 9 percent increase for the Carroll CountyDetention Center.
Brown said that before he took office he could not imagine all ofthe changes he would have to make in the Sheriff's Department.
"This place was in worse shape than I thought," said Brown, who campaigned against former Sheriff Grover N. "Sam" Sensabaugh on a platform that the department's law-enforcement duties should be scaled back.
Sensabaugh objected to Brown's assessment of the Sheriff's Department. "What he's saying is a lot of bull," he said.
Sensabaugh also took exception to Brown's request for an $8,000 police training budget. The former sheriff requested $400 last year.
"The reason Brown has to train more people is that he is switching people around and moving unqualified people into police positions," Sensabaugh said.
"He made a campaign promise that he didn't want to increase policing, and he should stick to it," he said.
Brown's campaign platform was built on his belief that the public should not have to pay increased taxes to expand the Sheriff's Department. So county officials say they were surprised to see Brown asking for a 1992 budget of $1,097,325 for sheriff services and $1,627,257 for the county Detention Center. The department received $878,785 for sheriff services and $1,490,300 for the center in fiscal 1991.
Brown's department -- like most other county departments -- likely will see little if any of the 15 percent increase, budget officials and the County Commissioners said.
"Our budget situation is serious," said Steven D. Powell, the county's director of management and budget. "But it is manageable. Looking at these budget requests, however, perhaps we didn't stress enough howmuch of a problem we're in."
Late last year, when the commissioners enacted a hiring freeze and several money-saving programs, including one for energy conservation, to avoid a $3 million deficit in the county's current $116.3 million budget, the Office of Management and Budget asked all county agencies to keep 1992 budgets at 1991 levels.
Brown's requested 15 percent increase is not the highest the office has seen. The Public Works' $13.3 million request is 25 percent greater than its 1991 funding of $10.6 million.
But when the commissioners learned several weeks ago of Brown's $515,380 request for 17 new employees, they were surprised.
"That caught my eye," remarked Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr. during an informal briefing earlierthis month with the budget director.
President Donald I. Dell said he was "a little confused" by the request, especially since Brown'scampaign message centered around reducing the cost of the department.
Last week, Powell made it clear that the budget leaves little room for additional employees.
With the hiring freeze -- expected tobe continued for at least another two months -- new employees are far from the budget office's highest priority.
"We've got to think creatively," Dell said.
But Brown, a Baltimore City police officer for 25 years, maintains he would have sought such a high increase if the department had been managed properly before he took over.
"I wouldn't ask for one additional body if I didn't think it was critically needed to run this department correctly," he said.
Of the 17 additional positions Brown is asking for, nine would work in the Detention Center.
The center, which is filled to capacity with an average of 120 inmates each week, is being expanded. Renovations will be completed by the end of this year, he said.
The construction will allow the center to house 80 additional prisoners, he said.
To supervise those additional prisoners, Brown wants to hire five more correctional officers. He wants to double the health-care staff by hiring an additional registered nurse; add two cooks to bring the total to six; and hire an additional secretary to handle added paperwork that comes with more prisoners.
The center and the sheriff's office have two secretaries each. Brown also is requesting another secretary for his office.
For courthouse security, he is asking for five more deputies. Brown maintains that the judges have requested these positions; Administrative Circuit Judge Raymond Beck could not be reached forcomment.
The request for two additional deputies comes from the Carroll State's Attorney's Office, Brown said.
He said he was askedto obtain an officer for the county Narcotics Task Force and one fora new Career Criminal Program.
Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III confirmed the requests.
"For the task force, we needanother person to accomplish what the governor has given us to do," he said.