Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Protecting Public Safety, but Re$pon$ibly

Amid today's stormy weather, we had our own turbulence at our County Commission meeting today as we debated how to get through the budget crisis, particularly when it comes to our public safety budget.

The Sheriff, who I've worked with closely on a number of issues, asked us once again to tap into our reserves to help out in this tough time. Respectfully, we just couldn't do it, for several reasons:
  • we would be violating our own policy of not using reserves for regular operations, which we passed several years back after prior county commissions had done just that and gotten us into the mess we're in now
  • we would violating the commitments we have publicly made to rating agencies that we would adhere to that reserve policy
  • we would be jeopardizing the financial stability of the County--given that our reserve is already too low (just around 5%), and that due to the bad economy, we are already seeing large hits to our first several months of revenue (sales tax, transfer tax, interest earnings, conveyance fees -- all down). Taking money from the reserves in such an uncertain time would simply be irresponsible.

While most media outlets described our reaction as a simple denial of his request, I actually proposed ways that the Sheriff could immediately find dollars to help maintain some of the priorities of corrections and patrols, and minimize the layoffs that we're all concerned about:

  • Apply 20-25% salary cuts on his senior employees that also receive pensions: that will save up to $200,000
  • Identify the exact amount of asset forfeiture dollars available in both the federal (potentially more than $1M) and state (potentially $800,000) funds and apply whatever amount we can to support priority patrol and corrections functions: this will generate at least hundreds of thousands of dollars
  • conduct an updated inventory, and sell all remaining unnecessary take home cars: tens or hundreds of thousands
  • take the $216K that was going to be used to hire five new non-patrol employees (that was recently posted), and apply those funds to maintain other patrol and corrections priorities: $216,000

TOTAL AMOUNT: hundreds of thousands, and potentially more than $1 million.

Let's hope these ideas, and any others, can lead to progress in the coming week or so.


Bob Baylor said...

Budget cuts are going to be status quo for the foreseeable future. Has there been any discussions about changing sentencing guidelines? Violent criminals need to be kept off of the street but many non-violent crimes are punishable by jail time as well. Changing sentencing guidelines could help alleviate the populations of our jails.

Anonymous said...


Great work David !

Those top senior double-dipping officials should have been the first to go. Promote from within, at reduced salary, and leave an open spot for street patrol.

How about trimming the amount paid to the crony appraisers used for sheriff sales. They make about 160,000 per year and we think there is six of them ?

We would be interested in the statistics of officers to population and how that compares to other cities. Maybe it is us, but we feel like we live in a county police state.

Maybe we can ask Si why, in the last 35 years, there has not been a major LOCAL money laundry bust.

The last money bust was a black gang from out of town and they recovered 1,000,000 (we think). This sounds more turf-protection then enforcement.

Where do the OTR drug dealers bank ?

No local money-laundry ?

We don't think so. After all, they finance terrorists from fifth street.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Pepper:

Thanks for challenging the Sheriff on these important issues.

Good people are losing their jobs -good people who have children to raise. Others (double dippers) are collecting 2 salaries while parents of young children are going to have no salary.

I know that you cannot tell the Sheriff what to do with his money, but I sincerely appreciate that you challenged him on this issue.

Someone has to speak up for what is right.

Anonymous said...

During tough times, you will see what people are really made of, and their true motivations.

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