MANATEE -- The Manatee County Sheriff's Office proposed a $104.4 million budget Wednesday for next fiscal year, up 5 percent over 2013-14.
Sheriff Brad Steube asked county commissioners for 12 new positions with a caveat: He plans to seek a matching grant to help pay salaries.
The sheriff said he would compete with hundreds of other U.S. agencies for the money, adding he did not know if Manatee County would be successful.
He said he would: "Take a deep breath, hope for the best and hope that our grant writer is better than others. But the bottom line is, if we don't get that grant, then this year we will not be getting funding from you for eight patrol deputies, so that will go unfunded."
The grant potentially could pay $125,000 per deputy for eight road deputies -- a total of $1 million -- over a three-year period, said comptroller Tom Salisbury.
The grant request will be submitted next week. The county will find out in September if it has been awarded the money, he said.
The sheriff has also requested four additional corrections deputies be hired at a cost of $334,627, which comes to $83,656 apiece.
Steube noted commission efforts to better fund the department the last couple years has borne results in the form of a 16 percent decrease in crime in 2012, a 3 percent decrease in 2013 and another 7 percent drop since Jan. 1 this year, he said.
"So we're working for you hard every day," he said.
Officials noted more deputies are needed because of county and jail population increases.
Employee raises would cost $3.186 million under the proposal unveiled during a Manatee County Commission workshop.
The sheriff commissioned a study that showed pay for starting deputies in Manatee, compared with those of 15 surrounding law enforcement organizations, ranks No. 12 this year, up from dead last one year ago, according to budget documents.
New deputies in Manatee earn $40,785 compared with $45,950 for starting deputies in Hillsborough County, which topped the list, and $39,865 for Hernando County at the bottom, the study found.
Under terms of the budget proposal, pay for starting deputies would go up to $43,853, moving Manatee up from 12th to seventh out of 15 agencies, Salisbury said.
Commissioners said a $500,000 difference exists between the amount of money tentatively allocated to the sheriff in the proposed county budget compared with his budget request.
"Do we have some room to grant this request?" wondered Democratic Commissioner Michael Gallen, noting he would have voted to increase taxes to accommodate the sheriff in years past.
However, looking at his Republican colleagues, he added: "I know you guys don't like the 'T' word."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.