URBANA — The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office is on its way to being back to the staffing level it had for deputies more than a decade ago.
The county board backed an increase of two additional deputies for the sheriff’s office, which would put the deputy staffing level at 42 for next year, equivalent to what it was in 2008, said Sheriff Dustin Heuerman.
At a meeting this week, Republican board member Jim McGuire urged his fellow board members to increase the staffing level for deputies by an additional four, “given the crime wave we’ve been having.”
Fellow Republican board member Diane Michaels said she would support an increase to four, also considering the amount of ground deputies have to cover in the county.
The board’s Democratic majority rejected an increase of four, voicing budget concerns, and ultimately the board endorsed the addition of two more deputies. Final action won’t be taken until the Oct. 21 board meeting.
Heuerman said his recommendation would be to add four deputies, but he welcomed the addition of two more.
“We could always use more deputies,” the sheriff said Wednesday. “I could absolutely use the four.”
The additional two deputies had been negotiated as part of the budgeting process with County Executive Darlene Kloeppel based on what money the county has available, he said.
Heuerman said adding two deputies will cost the county $242,000, including salary, benefits, equipment and training.
The sheriff’s office is currently down one deputy but is in the process of filling the position, he said.
Heuerman said he never has the full number of authorized deputies available for patrol, and at the moment, he is down about nine, not including the vacancy, with the rest on leaworkers’ compensation or military leave or still in training.
He said he’s already recruiting for the additional two deputies but won’t be able to make any formal offers until the county board approves the 2022 budget in November.
He said the critical staffing shortage continues to be in correctional officers for the jail.
He is down about seven correctional officers, he said. Four new ones are in the process of being added but need to be trained and won’t likely be available until the start of next year.