The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office is requesting about a $1 million increase in its operating budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

The department is seeking both an increase in equipment and manpower, citing an “increase in demand,” according to sheriff Leroy Ravenell.

“Our agency has met this demand daily, tenaciously with limited personnel and resources,” Ravenell said. “This was evident most recently when within a matter of hours there were two homicides in two different parts of the county with an already short-staffed shift and only two crime-scene investigators.”

“All of this while preparing to brief the community on an ongoing investigation involving the murder of 6-year-old Winston Hunter,” he said. “The high demand of the agency has resulted in a substantial toll on our personnel as well as our equipment.”

As a member of the National Crime Victims Board with the National Sheriff’s Association, Ravenell said law enforcement is in high demand across the country and keeping personnel and staff has proven a challenge in a competitive compensation climate.

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“We are currently operating well under our desired number of deputies for our four rotating shifts that are responsible for covering the entire county,” Ravenell said. “It is our desire to have a minimum of 12 deputies on each shift.”

“This will assist with quicker response times as well as allow for more proactive approaches as well as assist with officer safety concerns,” Ravenell said.

Ravenell said many crimes in the county need intensive investigations that require the services of crime-scene investigators.

“We only have two for the entire county and major crimes investigators in which we are requesting additional personnel,” Ravenell said.

The agency has also requested additional cameras be placed around the county that can assist with investigation and giving information of participants or vehicles used in crimes. Ravenell noted such cameras would serve well in drive-by shooting cases such as seen in the Hunter case.

The department also has requested body cameras, tasers and other investigative tools.

“My agency is committed to serve and will always do our best,” Ravenell said. “However, as a leader, I understand that we need help.”

Ravenell praised the effort of his staff to serve citizens.

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“The submission of the request for additional funds is with a desire to give the citizens of Orangeburg County all that I can as their sheriff,” Ravenell said. “It is important for me to make sure that the community knows that this budget request will put us on par with surrounding agencies and what they are currently offering.”

Orangeburg County Council and staff spent much of a special called Wednesday budget workshop meeting discussing how the sheriff’s request can be met while also balancing other needs in the county. 

The OCSO’s annual budget is typically around $8 million to $9 million, said Harold Young, Orangeburg County administrator.

Young said some of the most significant sheriff’s office budget request increases are: $5 for the first 20 weeks
  • $71,000 for ammunition, which is up from the $30,000 that was requested a year ago. Ammunition costs due to inflation have risen from about $16 a box to $40 a box.
  • About $44,000 for personal protective equipment, which is up from the $5,000 requested last year.
  • An additional $50,000 for new uniforms.
  • $100,000 for lab supply, which is up from $90,000 for the current fiscal year.
  • $450,000 for fuel, up from about $356,000 for the current year.
  • Weapon upgrade for the department’s SWAT team and school resource officers of $117,000, up from $40,000. The office has requested the upgrades include rifles rather than the current shotguns in light of the recent school shooting in Texas.
  • $75,000 for gear, up from $25,000. The request includes the purchase of pepper sprays, stun guns and batons.

Young said the funding request increase is proving to be a challenge especially in light of the fact that the county has seen a drop in its 2020 census numbers, which means a drop in monies it receives from the state otherwise known as the local government fund. LGF money is allocated based on census numbers.

“We are losing X amount of dollars per person because of the census drop,” Young said. 

Young also said in addition to rising fuel costs, meal costs at the jail have gone up.

Young said diesel fuel is now about $4 to $5 a gallon, which is about double from where it was last year.

The budget has received first reading by title only. Second reading is pending.

The county’s 2022-23 fiscal year begins July 1.

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