Simplified: Public safety costs in Minnehaha County have increased 47% in the last five years, according to budget data shared this week with the county commission. Here's a look at the "why" behind some of those rising costs.
Why it matters
- Public safety costs make up nearly half of the county's total budget for next year. The provisional 2024 budget approved by commission on Tuesday was $168.5 million.
- The total public safety budget for next year is about $71 million includes everything from the county jail to the sheriff's office to court costs. That's up from a $48 million annual public safety budget in 2020.
- Staffing is far and away the biggest driver of cost increases, Warden Jeff Gromer told Sioux Falls Simplified. That's due in part to higher turnover during the pandemic and the overall wage increases needed to keep recruiting correctional officers and other jail staff.
"Everything's getting more expensive," Gromer said. "We're very staff-intensive. Our job in public safety and law enforcement is not something you can really automate."
Tell me more about increasing costs
The budget includes all public safety-related departments, including the sheriff's office, juvenile detention, state's attorney, public defender, public advocate and the courts.
As recruiting public safety workers nationwide gets tougher, salaries have gone up locally to attract more folks.
- For example, the starting salary for a correctional officer in 2020 was $19.47 per hour. Today, it's $24.16, which is a 24% increase in fewer than five years, according to county Human Resources Director Carey Deaver.
Increased turnover among jail staff during the pandemic also played a role. Turnover was 17% in 2020 and jumped to 31% in 2021 before going back down to 25% last year.
Overall, the county public safety spending is also increasing at a faster rate than police spending within the City of Sioux Falls.
- The city police budget went from about $40 million in 2020 to close to $50 million this year (next year's proposed budget will be announced later this week.)
What happens next?
The county budget will be discussed in a public hearing in early September with final adoption by the end of September.