There are tough times ahead for Larimer County government in terms of financing all of the mandated services the county must perform and the non-mandated services that enhance the quality of life that the citizens have come to expect. With the shrinking property taxes that support most of county government, and the decline in sales tax that funds much of the jail and some other county services, the county is having to tighten its belt even further. The county departments and elected offices have to submit our 2011 budgets by the first of September. Each department and office has been given budgetary guidelines that specify the amount of General Fund money that will be available. The money available in 2011 will be less than what was available this year so we are all being asked to take a cut. The Sheriff’s Office fared better than most departments with only a one percent reduction in money from the General Fund. This equates to approximately $303,000.
However, our total budget is based on the monies from the General Fund and any revenue we derive from our services: fingerprinting fees, booking fees, records fees, civil process service and traffic fines. We had projected receiving $255,000 from the U. S. Marshals for holding some of their prisoners if we could maintain our cap on the jail population. We haven’t been able to stay under our cap and the U. S. Marshals aren’t expected to be able to contract with us next year so we will need to reduce our budget by $255,000. This brings our total budget reduction to $558,000.
The $558,000 reduction is the best case scenario.
With the prospects of Proposition 101, Amendment 60, and amendment 61 passing in the fall election, all departments have been asked to submit a second budget. This would require reducing the budget by $1,800,000.
Either way, $558,000 or $1,800,000, this is going to hurt. We will have to lay off employees and reduce services.
It has been painfully obvious from listening to the campaign rhetoric that most of the candidates running for the Office of Sheriff have no idea about how the budget works. Naturally, everyone wants to put more deputies on the street. So do I. However, nobody has identified anyway to do that. It has been suggested that we eliminate traffic enforcement. Annually we remove over 1,000 drunk drivers from the road, thus enhancing public safety and saving lives. I receive more complaints about traffic than anything else. If we don’t provide this service to the unincorporated areas of the county, who will? The sad reality this that the Sheriff’s Office depends on traffic fines in order to provide other services. The loss of our traffic revenue would mean cutting our budget an additional $1,200,000 and eliminating about a dozen more deputy positions that are funded by traffic fines.
One candidate claims the Sheriff’s Office is too busy with technology. What technology should we have not pursued? Upgrading the radio communications system so we are in compliance with the FCC regulations and make sure our deputies can communicate with Dispatch and each other? Getting mobile data terminals in the patrol cars so deputies could do some of their reports and research in the field, thus improving our efficiency and reducing the number of clerical personnel? Adding security cameras at the Detention Center to improve safety? Laboratory equipment that helps us solve crimes?
While I have the responsibility of building the Sheriff’s Office 2011 budget, one of the five candidates vying for the opportunity to be the next caretaker of this distinguished Office will have to live with that budget. I want to offer them the opportunity to provide input into the budgeting process I invite the interested candidates, employees and other citizens to meet with me in the Commissioner’s Hearing Room at the Courthouse located a 201 W. Oak, Fort Collins (not to be confused with the Justice Center) on Friday, July 30 at 6:30 p. m. to discuss their suggestions for setting priorities and reducing our budget. I anticipate presenting “Sheriff’s Budget 101″ to the participants during the first half-hour, explaining how the budget works, and then taking questions and suggestions. Ultimately, it will be the citizens, employees and the next sheriff who will feel the impact of any reductions.