Last week County Commissioner’s approved a two year, $80,000 contract between the Sheriff’s Office and the community of Timberlakes for “enhanced” policing services. The agreement is paramount to an admission that something is terribly wrong.
Currently, 46% of the general fund is allocated toward Public Safety. In 2012 the Sheriff’s Office budget was $9,020,522, including supplemental appropriations. That’s $268,204 over the previous year. If you add in the budgets for Traffic Policing and Courthouse Security, the number increases to a bit over $10M.
So why are some communities paying twice for the same policing services, once with their property taxes and again under an “enhanced” agreement.
One of two things is happening: either the Sheriff’s Office is underfunded, or it is not being run efficiently. The county could write a blank check and hope for the best, but it would be wiser to hire a law enforcement efficiency consultant to assess the situation and make recommendations. If more funding is needed, then so be it. But if the conclusion points to a need for improved efficiency, then the Sheriff will need to make whatever adjustments necessary to keep citizens from having to pay twice for the same services.
There is also another problem: too many reports from citizens complaining that the Sheriff’s Office is failing to respond to calls for assistance in a timely manner.
The Sheriff argues that his budget was cut, but the audited numbers do not entirely support that position. While it is true some monies were cut from road diversion tax, no significant change was made to the total policing budget, certainly none that would justify an increase in complaints.
Departmental politics brings problems, not solutions. The Sheriff’s Office and County Commissioners need to get on with their respective responsibilities of providing services within the adopted budget and adopting a budget that allows those services be provided, without charging citizens twice.