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Sheriff seeks bigger staff

Varga asks again for two more deputies, cites overtime costs vs. salary, benefits

Sheriff John Varga
Sheriff John Varga

DIXON – Lee County Sheriff John Varga told the county board Tuesday that he is not going to give up trying to get two more deputies for patrol in the road division. 

“I’m not going to go away,” Varga said. “I’m still going to ask for my two employees.” 

Varga first requested the new deputies last month, but the board voted 17-9 on Oct. 16 to deny the request, citing a need to keep spending stable and a desire to hire a consultant to review staffing levels.

In September, the board voted unanimously to allow the state’s attorney’s office to hire another prosecutor and clerical employee, adding nearly $100,000 to the budget. State’s Attorney Henry Dixon said he needed them because his office was dealing with nine homicide cases. Board members said the positions would disappear once the state’s attorney’s caseload returned to normal levels.

Varga noted that the additional homicide cases and the state’s attorney’s hires when making his requests for more deputies.

“We’re dealing with more,” he said, referring to the increased number of homicides. “We have four to five people in jail [on homicide charges].”

Varga presented a packet of information to board members Tuesday showing how much overtime he is paying.

The sheriff’s department paid $193,977.16 in overtime in fiscal year 2011, which was $44,977.16 more than was budgeted, according to Varga’s documents. Of that amount, $90,302.43 was paid to the road division.

The department is projected to spend $180,737.18 for overtime this fiscal year, which is $27,267.18 more than budgeted. 

“It doesn’t make any sense to continue to pay the overtime as opposed to hiring new employees,” Varga said. 

The new deputy starting salary would be $40,500. Two deputies would cost the county about $127,000, including pension and health insurance costs, if the deputies select the insurance that covers an employee plus a spouse.

The department has 39 employees, 13 of whom are road deputies, Varga said. The department lost two deputies 3 years ago whose positions were “cut out” of the department’s budget, so “we’ve been short employees 3 years now,” Varga said.

The department has many longtime deputies eligible for a great deal of vacation, increasing the need for more staff, he added.

Varga said he is fine with having a study done to gauge the need for the deputies, as long as it’s an assessment of the entire office, not just of the road division. 

The issue is expected to be discussed at the county board’s Dec. 18 meeting.

To attend

Lee County Board is expected to discuss Sheriff John Varga's request for two more deputies at the board's next regular meeting, 9 a.m. Dec. 18 at the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

For an agenda, call 815-288-5676, stop by the courthouse, or go to and click on "Lee County Board meetings," then "Your government," "County Board" and "county board agenda."

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