It was the Sheriff’s Department’s turn for budget scrutiny this week, as Fulton County supervisors pored over its departmental budget for 2012 line by line seeking places to trim.
There’s not much fat left to trim, Sheriff Thomas Lorey said at Thursday’s meeting.
“The less of us there are, the more bad people there are,” said Lorey, as budget review committee members questioned whether to fill four vacancies within the department.
The department already had an opening when two investigators retired and a patrol deputy quit this year, he said. That left the department with four open entry-level deputy positions.
A county hiring freeze imposed in August by the Board of Supervisors put the department in a tough spot, Lorey said.
Supervisors agreed that with a month left to go before a tentative 2012 budget is presented to a full board, everything is on the table. That includes possible cuts to a public safety service for county residents, said Board of Supervisors Chairman David Howard.
“We know that county government has to shrink,” he said. “What are the services that we need to hang on to that are not mandated? What are those that are on the periphery?”
The committee, which spent several hours Thursday going over the budget, is in the midst of trying to balance a 2012 budget within the state’s recently imposed 2 percent property tax cap.
And although allowable exclusions mean Fulton County only has to meet a 3.76 percent cap, the committee says it is forced to cut into core county services to bring a current proposed tax hike of 21.6 percent down to an acceptable level.
That number is already a drop from a 40 percent tax levy increase the county was facing just two weeks ago.
Lorey said that the longer the department’s four positions remain open, the less likely they are to get filled.
“A guy who works in Gloversville is wanting to come here and work and that doesn’t happen very often,” Lorey said. “The more this hiring freeze goes on, the more likely he is to find some other work.”
Lorey said he would be willing to allow one of those positions to go unfilled in order to pare down the department’s budget. But attrition over the last few years already has the department compensating by bringing in part-time employees, changing hours and reworking patrol coverage throughout the county, he said.
“You’re going to do away with the Sheriff’s Department by attrition and pretty soon there’s going to be no one there,” Lorey said. “I’ve got people in my department looking for work because they’re worried they’re going to lose their jobs.”
The committee approved minor budget cuts to the department, including a $5,000 cut from its communications overtime account and $10,000 from the Fulton County Jail’s medical account. They are preparing to approve a cut next week for the department’s food contract once they have final figures.
Members also questioned whether to cut a pending vacancy in the department’s K-9 unit, which currently includes two road patrols and one jail patrol. No conclusion was reached.
Members decided to wait before cutting one of the department’s four vacancies because of collective bargaining issues that need to be ironed out.
“I’m assuring you we will work with whatever we have left and do the best we can,” Lorey told the committee. “I was desperate when I came over here this morning to say I was not willing to give up anything. My union is very upset about losing these four positions. I can live without [one], but I’m asking you not to take it.”
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Categories: Schenectady County