Sheriff pitches budget hike

Sheriff John Turner's request is lower than initially but still about $1 million above the current budget.

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WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla County Sheriff John Turner and county commissioners discussed the latest version of the sheriff's budget request Monday, but remained apart on final figures.

Turner's presentation included both one-time expenses for the 2012 current expense budget as well as a list of requested increases for personnel and care and maintenance for a canine patrol.

Also included in the presentation were requests for funds from the county Law and Justice Fund, which is funded by a voter-approved sales tax.

The latest version of Turner's budget proposals was reduced from the sheriff's initial request, which called for an increase of approximately $2 million over his current budget. The latest budget proposal, however, remains about $995,000 above the office's 2011 budget, according to a budget summary Turner presented to commissioners.

Commissioner Gregg Loney said he and fellow Commissioners Perry Dozier and Greg Tompkins would need time to digest the latest proposals, but added that "currently in our budget, we're using everything that's coming in ... the current budget doesn't have these things in there."

Loney noted that at present the Sheriff's Office and County Jail by themselves take up about one-third of the county's current expense budget, which pays for much of the county's day-to-day operations. When all of the law enforcement functions, including courts, prosecuting attorney and clerk's office, are combined, the total is about 70 percent of the current expense budget.

Tompkins and Dozier also questioned why Turner was now asking for a corrections officer position to be filled when, at a July 11 meeting, Turner and jail supervisor Keilen Harmon said the position could be left vacant to allow the hiring of a deputy. "That was a concern of the commissioners, that moving that (position) would create a liability (in the jail)," Dozier said.

Commissioners also asked Turner to set priorities on his requests to help decide which might be approved or dropped. "We've got numbers here, but are they all-or-nothing numbers?" Tompkins said. "That's why we need priorities."

Tompkins also said that in his view increases in the Sheriff's Office would have to come at the expense of other departments. "In my mind the only way the Sheriff's Office gets more people is if other departments lose people," he said.

But Turner said he and his staff are passionate about providing public safety and that should be the priority. He claimed the county is currently experiencing "1.5 felony crimes per day" and that having the people to investigate those crimes takes priority.

"We can paint things next year, but you can't un-victimize someone," he said.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

In the proposal

"Immediate one-time priorities" listed in the Sheriff's budget proposals:

  • Equipment -- Two new copiers and projector for training room, $15,700

  • Uniforms -- New uniforms for operations, corrections and administrative services, $65,000

  • Pistols, rifles and related items -- Purchase of new pistols and rifles, $73,372.

  • Reserve deputies -- Funding for 20 new reserve deputy positions, $62,111

  • Total -- $216,183


Current expense new requests in Sheriff's budget proposals:

  • Records clerk -- Approximate salary, $32,546. Total approximate current expense impact, $50,000

  • One corrections officer -- Approximate salary, $38,383. Approximate total expense, $56,700

  • Two deputy sheriff's positions -- Approximate salary for $100,500 ($50,250 each). Total approximate current expense impact for both, $140,000

  • Canine patrol care and maintenance -- $3,000

  • Search and rescue -- $3,500 for ongoing expenses, supplies and travel costs.

  • DARE program for elementary schools -- $1,700 in addition to current $826 fund balance to maintain program.


Law Justice Fund new requests:

  • Hourly intermittent work to eliminate overtime -- $35,000

  • One additional part-time court security officer -- Approximate salary $13,500. Total impact to fund, $15,200.

  • Remove 2012 sheriff's vehicles from Law amp; Justice fund to similar reserve fund which was used for 2011 vehicles.

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