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Standoff over budget could put an end to funeral escorts

Budget cuts could put an end to deputy funeral escorts

A budget dispute between Escambia County commissioners and Sheriff David Morgan may mean the end of a tradition.

The sheriff said deputies will no longer escort funeral processions starting in October because he just doesn't have the manpower.

Law enforcement escorts for funerals have been a mainstay on the Gulf Coast, and throughout the South, for as long most can remember.

However, Sheriff David Morgan told Channel 3 News county commissioners aren't meeting his budget demands - and he has no choice but to stop the practice starting October 1st.

"Until the pay is realigned, the problem does not go away. It's one of being able to recruit and retain. The pay structure has to be changed. That's what the impasse is all about," Sheriff Morgan explained.

The idea of ending deputy escorts for funeral processions doesn't sit well with Commissioner Jeff Begosh.

"If the city of Pensacola is going to continue providing police escorts and the county is not. If I was going to have a funeral and I wanted a procession, I might consider using a funderal home in the city limits," Commissioner Bergosh said.

Commissioners said cuts they've made in other departments have freed up $3.7 million. While that would more than cover the sheriff's budget request, commissioners are reluctant to give all that money to the sheriff's office for raises.

Commissioner Lumon May said there must be compromise.

"Ii don't think everyone will get what they want. That doesn't happen in the world of government," May said.

Both Bergosh and May want to fund raises for the county's lowest paid workers, but they question the sheriff's budget request.

"The idea that I am going to give money to one group and everybody else gets nothing. I am never going to do that," said Bergosh.

The sheriff said he will go to the governor if the budget he submitted is not approved - and he's not budging.

"The dramatic pay difference - where we should be and what we are currently being paid - will have to be resolved before the governor," he said.

Both commissioners hope to meet with the sheriff before the budget process ends. That's a meeting the sheriff has so far not committed to.

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