Sheriff's budget had had its ups and downs

Until recently, the department was able to maintain a significant reserve.

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WALLA WALLA — A look at budgets for the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office from 2006 to the present shows some surprising ups and downs.

For instance, the Sheriff’s budget has not always increased. In fact, in 2010 the office had a 4.6 percent decrease in its budget, a drop of slightly more than $200,000 from the amount allocated the previous year.

But while a $200,000 reduction in funds might seem like the proverbial kick in the wallet, looking at the amounts budgeted compared to funds actually expended tells another story.

Under former Sheriff Mike Humphreys, the Sheriff’s Office managed to keep between 7-9 percent of its budgeted funds in reserve between 2006 and 2010, when Humphreys retired. The high-water marks were in 2008-2009 when the office expended about 91 percent of its budget, leaving a reserve of more than $400,000 both years.

The office received its smallest increase, 0.6 percent, in 2011, but that year the commissioned deputies association agreed to defer cost-of-living allowances until 2012, when those increases would be lumped in with COLA increases for 2012. Fiscal year 2011 was also the same year county commissioners instituted furlough days for non-union employees to hold down costs in an effort to balance the budget.

Unlike 2006 through 2010, which saw substantial funds left at the end of the year, at the end of 2011, which was Sheriff John Turner’s first year in office, only $449 remained unspent of the $4,298,329 budgeted for the Sheriff’s Office.

In his initial budget request for 2012, Turner asked for a $1.88 million increase in his current expense fund budget, a 43.7 percent increase from $4,298,329 to $6,178,366.

The county budget committee, composed of county Treasurer Gordon Heimbigner, county Auditor Karen Martin and former county commissioner Gregg Loney, recommended a 7.25 percent increase in the sheriff’s budget, raising it to $4,609,958. That was the amount approved by commissioners for this year.

Money from the Law and Justice Fund, which comes from a sales tax approved by voters in 2003, added another $1,147,553 to the Sheriff’s Office budget. Together the total came to $5,757,511 for this fiscal year.

This year, Turner’s initial budget request called for an increase of $604,301 in the current fund budget, from $4,609,958 to $5,214,259. In the latest revision of the Sheriff’s budget, submitted on Oct. 10, the requested increase was trimmed by $45,133 to a total of $5,169,126, an increase of 12.1 percent over the previous year.

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