Angelina County citizens flooded the Angelina County Commissioners Courtroom on Tuesday, August 1, 2017, to show their support for increasing manpower for the Angelina County Sheriff’s Office, even if it means raising taxes.
However, as the budget workshop began, discussions turned heated at times as Sheriff Greg Sanches began to focus on the 2-cent tax hike. “We need six deputies, one for the south end of the county, one for drug enforcement, and the remaining four to fill in rotations for sick leave and vacation time,” said Sanches. The request would also cover new vehicles and equipment.
“It comes to about $20 a year for a $100,000 property valuation,” said Sanches.
However, the Commissioners refused to entertain the idea of a tax hike.
“It’s not right to the public. They’re out here unprotected [in] a sense because we don’t have the proper manpower to provide for them,” Sanches explained. “We’ve had several instances where our deputies have been nearly killed on duty because they go out there by themselves and they have no backup.”
At one point, County Commissioner Terry Pitts worked with Chief Deputy Roy Owens over numbers that went back into the general fund, trying to find another way to pay for the extra manpower and said that hires had been made recently.
Chief Deputy Owens explained that was for one new dispatcher and a sheriff that was funded by Burke Center, to help patrol their facility. Sanches said that the Sheriff’s Office is “skinned to the bone,” with many “wearing different hats” to accomodate the growth.
Sheriff Sanches also explained that the call volume to the Sheriff’s Office has risen 54% since 2012 and the deputies serve a rural population of over 40,000 in Angelina County, which does not reflect the cities and communities they provide back-up for which include Lufkin, Zavalla, Hudson, Huntington and Diboll.
“This is my fifth year as Sheriff, and when I took office, it had been sixteen years since a manpower increase and now, it’s 21 years,” said Sanches. “Who’s paying the price out here is the public. That’s why we’re here today. That’s why we have proposed six deputies.”
When asked directly, four out of five Commissioners said that they would not favor raising taxes, all using the same talking point. Commissioner Greg Harrison and Timmons both mentioned that they had more constituents against raising taxes than for it, despite the overflowing courtroom and supporters of the Sheriff’s Office with signs on the sidewalk.
Sheriff Sanches said he would not back down from the two-cent tax increase.
A public forum to discuss the budget has been announced but has not been scheduled.