Two criminal justice arms of local government told Douglas County Commissioners Tuesday they need more money to stay competitive and cover costs not included in their initial 2022/2023 budgets.
Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley requested a budget of nearly $7.2 million, more than $350,000 than their target amount. Riley said a major portion would go to increase pay for attorneys in the lower half of the department’s pay scale.
Riley said the starting salary for the Douglas County PD is $60,000, compared to $69,800 and $71,600 for Sarpy and Lancaster County’s public defender’s offices respectively.
“I’m not going to sit here and demean the work of the Sarpy or Lancaster County public defender’s offices, but I am going to stick up for our folks,” Riley said. “We handle a hell of a lot more cases.”
Douglas County PD also requested more funding for mental health experts, as Riley said the need has increased in recent years. He said psychologists are also needed for juveniles to avoid being tried as adults.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office requested a budget of $20.3 million, nearly $850,000 more than their target amount. Sheriff Tom Wheeler said most of the increase would go towards personnel costs for the newly constructed Juvenile Justice Center.
The Omaha City Council met for a brief meeting Tuesday, approving an $11 million purchase of new equipment for the Omaha Fire Department. The money will come from the city’s Capital Improvement Plans for the next three years.
“Going forward we need to be mindful of staying committed to this change of funding in future years to continue this replacement of equipment we know is badly needed,” Council President Pete Festersen said.