|Wakulla Area Times Article--Budget Proposal--June 2011|
It Is Budget Season Again
By Sheriff David Harvey
The calendar doesn’t wait for anyone and it has told the Financial Division of the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office that we are right in the middle of the 2011-2012 budget planning period. The smaller anticipated revenue collections by the county have forced all county officials to consider ways to reduce cost.
We did not have a budget increase for 2010-2011 and it was a difficult budget year. But we are expecting an even more serious budget crunch for the new budget year which begins on October 1. As a result, the sheriff’s office is making deep cuts and those cuts may end up having an impact on the level of service we can offer our citizens.
We will do our best to make sure the budget cuts are not felt by the citizens we serve. But our calls for service have not decreased and we still hold the philosophy that we want to make house calls whenever a citizen calls our dispatch office. Many counties in Florida no longer respond to certain calls. These calls are taken over the telephone. In many cases, the citizens who make the complaints never see a law enforcement officer. These counties are concentrating on the more serious crimes because they do not have the personnel needed to answer every call.
Last year we started our Public Service Officer (PSO) program to take advantage of the many talented and giving citizens who live here. The PSOs respond to non-violent crime and assist with other activities such as parades and sporting events to allow road patrol deputies to concentrate on more serious calls.
The response has been very positive but we don’t want to burn out our volunteers. We are continuing to recruit and train additional PSOs in an effort to create a larger pool.
In a nutshell, we have eliminated positions in road patrol, records, corrections and courthouse security. We have also made an early separation offer to some of our veteran employees who are vested in the Florida Retirement System and who are at least age 50. We will continue to expand the PSO program to allow volunteers to assist us with the increasing demands for our services. We also plan to increase the use of our reserve deputies and have two very talented and dedicated reserve captains who oversee the PSO and reserve programs.
Reserve deputies have arrest powers while PSOs do not. Both groups of men and women have one thing in common, they are all volunteers. These dedicated individuals help the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office because they want to give something back to their community and truly love law enforcement and the county.
The budget request includes a reduction of seven positions and a reduction of $401,356 or a 3.8 percent decrease from the 2010-11 budget. Additional reductions may be possible once we know what the Florida Retirement rates will be and how much health insurance premiums will increase.
Health insurance premiums and Florida Retirement contributions increased last year and with a flat budget we were required to absorb those additional costs. The reductions were achieved by reducing employee overtime and leaving open positions vacant during the year.
We are the only law enforcement provider in Wakulla County and this budget will be the fifth year in a row where the sheriff’s office did not add new sworn deputy sheriffs. Keep in mind that a reduction in personnel may mean a reduction in service. The percentage of calls requiring investigation continues to rise each year, increasing the demand for services without increases in resources.
The Corrections Division is reporting an estimated $2.8 million in jail bed rental revenue. But with a reduction of three positions in the jail we will be forced to accommodate services in the jail with law enforcement deputies and volunteers when necessary.
We have many challenges ahead of us including adapting to the requested position decrease. We are committed to maintaining public expectations related to law enforcement and corrections services. I am, however, concerned that any future reductions may adversely impact our ability to provide the level of services currently delivered to and expected by our community.
We will continue to work with county commissioners and staff during the budget planning process. However, our commitment to the safety of our citizens and staff is foremost and cannot be compromised.
Here is how our budget breaks down:
• The Law Enforcement Division has $4,745,535 in personal services and $715,059 in operating expenses for a total of $5,460,594. The budget request is $194,352 below the 2010-2011 approved budget.
• The Corrections Division has $3,420,761 in personal services and $866,973 in operating expenses. The budget request is $156,728 below the 2010-2011 approved budget.
• The Court Security Division has $204,091 in personal services and $15,108 in operating expenses. The budget request is $50,276 below the 2010-2011 budget.
• The Enhanced 911 or E-911 operation has $64,975 in personal services and $102,633 in operating expenses. The budget request is the same as the 2010-2011 budget.
• The Emergency Management Division has $23,273 for personal services. The budget is the same as 2010-2011 and with grant match dollars funding the office the WCSO is unable to reduce the budget.
The personnel reduction includes two road patrol deputies, a records clerk, three correctional officer assistants and a bailiff. We have also made an early separation offer to employees who are vested in the Florida Retirement System and have already reached age 50. The elimination of the seven positions will save the budget $401,356.
Some of our accomplishments during the 2010-2011 budget year include: establishing the Public Service Officer (PSO) program of volunteers to assist road patrol deputies; responding to more than 90 percent of all traffic crashes with our Traffic Unit. The unit worked three fatalities; WCSO received a “clean” opinion on the financial statement audit; staff members have trained to become part of the U.S. Marshal’s Task Force to assist capturing fugitives in the Big Bend region; sponsored a grant funded program that educated high school students about the dangers of drunk driving; responded to a double homicide and caught the suspect within a few hours; fast action of dedicated law enforcement officers saved the life of one of the victims; monitored 124 sex offenders and investigated 330 reported crimes against persons; arrested more than 75 people for property crimes and recovered more than $250,000 in stolen property; detectives conducted a senior citizen scam awareness program and served our seniors meals on several occasions; GREAT and SAVE educational programs were given to elementary and middle school students; and more than 40 drug offenders were arrested and thousands of dollars of stolen property was recovered.
We project 61,559 uniform patrol primary or secondary calls for service in 2011-2012. We anticipate 10,400 emergency 911 calls. EMS calls are expected to reach 3,000 in 2011-2012 and fire calls are expected to reach 3,200. The communications center has been answering just below 105,000 calls per year and we anticipate that number will increase to nearly 108,000 in 2011-2012.
Our projections have 1,051 cases being assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division. Nearly 3,000 civil processes will be served. Another 1,527 warrants are expected to be served.
Our major accomplishments for the Corrections Division includes: our ability to maintain contracts with federal and state agencies to earn more than $2.5 million in jail bed revenue. Detection deputies are also successfully completing the law enforcement cross-over academy and give us the flexibility to use the same employees as either a road patrol deputy or a correctional officer. We have continued to pass the National Detention Standards inspection and we have installed a new commissary kiosk making inmate deposits more convenient to the public while eliminating the need for our staff to handle cash and money orders for inmates. Inmates use the kiosk system to purchase goods from the canteen.
Our corrections projections have the jail collecting $2.85 million in jail bed revenue while the work release program will collect $6,000 in work release fees. Work camp collections are earmarked at $12,000.
We anticipate a monthly average of 125 local inmates, 104 Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees and seven U.S. Marshal inmates. We average about 270 jail bookings per month and release approximately 219 inmates per month. We also anticipate using inmate labor on county roads to collect 278,314 pounds of trash. The WCSO has 67 full-time and two part-time employees working in corrections.
The courthouse security personnel monitored more than 90,000 visitors to the Wakulla County Courthouse during the past year and also provided security at the temporary courthouse while renovations were being completed at the facility in downtown Crawfordville. The unit has also assisted with an upgrade of security cameras for the facility.
We project more than 104,000 visitors will use the courthouse and pass through our security system. Our bailiffs will attend more than 11,000 court proceedings and transport 562 inmates from jail to the courthouse. Another 45 arrests will be made by warrant or court order.
The E 911 program maintained the existing emergency communications system to handle 10,106 calls. In addition to maintenance, we plan to add additional E 911 telephone circuits and increase efficiency in recording data.
Some of our major accomplishments in the Emergency Management Program include: continued emergency tabletop exercises; updating of the local mitigation strategy; response to the Deepwater Horizons oil spill; creating a school bus accident response plan for all agencies and development and management of a full scale mass casualty exercise in a school bus disaster scenario.
My pledge to you is that the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office will continue to provide services that ensure a high quality of life and a safe living environment that will allow Wakulla County to continue to be a safe and enjoyable community in which to live.