Judge Executive Says Sheriff's Proposed Budget for 2019 Will Be Higher As A Result Of Circumstances Beyond Sheriff's Control, Magistrates Approve Reduced Number
Darren Doyle, story:
District three magistrate Clark Wood clashed with Sheriff Shane Doyle on Doyle's proposed budget for 2019, which is around a total of a 7% increase from last year's budget.
"This is what we discussed in our finance committee meeting," said Judge Executive Wil Cannon. "We did all the math on it and this is what is has to be in order for the Sheriff to continue providing the services that he currently provides." Cannon asked for a motion and second to pass the Sheriff's budget which was in the amount of $626,000, which was up from $582,000 for last year.
Magistrate Wood told Doyle that the sheriff's new budget amount was excessive and he was against the increase. He made a motion to reject to budget which was seconded by departing magistrate Joe Durbin. He asked Doyle to simply lower the amount. Doyle said the reasons for the increase in the budget were explained during both the week before last and last week's finance committee meetings where the discussion was shared by all magistrates, except Magistrate Buck Simmons, who was unable to attend to latter meeting. While Magistrate Wood asked several questions at last week's meeting, Doyle said he answered them and felt like magistrates understood Doyle's reasoning behind the increased numbers at the meeting, the place to discuss the line items for the budget, not the regular fiscal court meeting.
Today, the Sheriff said the increase was caused by several factors that were beyond his control, such as: payroll errors made by the former county treasurer, a new tax server required in order for the office to properly send and collect property taxes, a 15-20% increase in fuel, an increased cost from retirement costs set by the state, and their call volume that increased by 25% last year. Doyle said out of the entire amount, only a $3,300 increase could be credited to simply overspending.
"I want to the level of services to be up here," said Doyle as he gestured his hand above his head as he spoke with magistrates. "But you're only wanting to fund me down here," as he moved his other hand near his chest. "I want to be the best sheriff's office in the state. The public expects us to try to do that. If you want me to cut this budget then I have to cut the services we provide. Tell me what you want me to cut, write it down and sign your name to it, that way I can tell the public that these are the things some magistrates don't want us to do."
Magistrate Wood repeatedly said that wasn't his job to find the cuts. He said it's up to Doyle to come up with a satisfactory number to present to fiscal court and that Doyle would have to change the amount to a suitable number, not magistrates.
County Attorney Greg Vincent said Wood was incorrect and that in fact, it was exactly the magistrates' job to make changes if they didn't like what was presented.
"He submits the recommend budget to you, and you have to vote on what the budget will be," said Vincent. "You can't just say, 'no, we're not accepting your budget,' today, you have to pass a budget, regardless. You will have to pass a number today. It's not him, he's already given his recommendation."
Wood said, "It's his job to cut the budget. If we don't approve it, it's his job to cut it."
Vincent replied, "No, it's your job to do that. He (the sheriff) did present the budget, he did his job. It's your job today to pass the budget. You will have to come up with a number today. It's the same thing we've done with every other sheriff, it's the same we did with every other clerk, even with the (former) clerk protesting and throwing a fit and other sheriffs throwing a fit. If you want the budget cut, YOU have to tell him what to cut and cut it out and he'll have to live with it."
The entire discussion lasted more than an hour with Wood questioning the sheriff on most all his figures, even asking for office staff from the sheriff's office to make a special trip to the meeting in order to furnish specific drug fund money information, which is an account that is funded by seized property and cash from drug arrests. While the amount exceeded more than $60K last year, it can only be spent on specific items that are for the use in fighting drugs. Vehicles, equipment, and uniforms are acceptable types of purchases, and none of those line items were increased from the previous year with Doyle's proposed budget. While the total budget amount from last year increased by $44K, only $6100 will come from the county's general fund.
Magistrate Johnny Brooks made the motion to pass a budget amount of $610K, which was $16K less than Doyle's recommendation. After nearly 20 more minutes of going over each line item again, Doyle ended up reducing salaries, including his own, and said it would not be pleasant explaining the cuts to his deputies.
"These are real people. They count on this money," said Doyle. In addition, Doyle was also forced to cut social security, retirement, workman’s comp, uniforms, and law enforcement supplies for a total of $9500 in cuts to bring the total down to $616K, a $10K decrease from his proposed amount.
"We’re setting ourselves up for failure with all these cuts," said Judge Cannon. "We're probably going to be right back in this same situation with the sheriff asking for more money at the end of the year because he'll need more than this to operate."
Magistrates said they'd cross that bridge when faced with the task next year and Magistrate Brooks made the motion to accept the budget amount of $616,600. The motion was seconded by Clark Wood. A roll call vote was made and all voted in favor except magistrate Joe Durbin, who voted no, and departing Magistrate Buck Simmons, who was absent due to a family matter.