It’s a clear political attack for the board of supervisors (Peter Rios and David Snider) to say the Sheriff’s budget is not balanced, when they sign a contract with the unions after my budget is fixed and then don’t provide me with the $547,100 they agreed to. Where does that money come from when we are budgeted for gas for our vehicles at $1.78 per gallon, yet the price of fuel has doubled? In past years, the unpredictable rise in fuel costs were covered, but now the supervisor want to take full political advantage in this election year. Instead of funding the increased fuel charges like they have in past budget years to ensure our deputies continue to respond to emergencies and detention officers transport prisoners, their high paid county manager ($179,000 salary) says “pay for it out of your budget.” They want me to leave critical deputy and detention officer positions unfilled, which compromises our public safety.
The county also changed budget procedures this year for all departments, where budget costs and funding was transferred for employee related expenses (ERE’s) such as FICA, retirement contributions, over time and workers compensation. The estimates by the Supervisors and their staff were significantly off and millions in funding were shorted to the Sheriff’s Office. The county later agreed to pay for some shortages in retirement contributions, employee related expenses and over $850,000 for workers compensation.
The county signed a legal contract (two sheriffs prior to me) with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (ICE) for nearly 500 beds in our Jail and they have yet to hire the 51 additional detention officers that are required by this contract. The Sheriff’s Office is still required to staff our Jail according to the specifications of this contract, as well as transport detainees to medical appointments and court hearings. This failure by the board triggers a significant shift in overtime expense, which they have cut as well. This old federal contract charges only $59.61 per day, yet local Police Departments are charged $193.83 for the initial booking of a prisoner and $72.30 per day thereafter. These higher charges are not fair to local Police Departments and Pinal taxpayers.
We are the largest law enforcement agency in Pinal County with nearly 700 full time staff and hundreds of volunteers. We operate a 1,500 inmate Jail in Florence and we are the primary emergency responders for most Pinal families. We have fewer officers per thousand residents than any of the city police departments, such as Casa Grande, Maricopa, Coolidge, Florence and Apache Junction. Many of these agencies strive for two officers for every 1,000 residents. The Sheriff’s Office has less than one deputy for every 1,000 residents in unincorporated areas of Pinal County. We are short over 100 deputies by conservative staffing models.
When a Deputy is sick, on vacation or injured, we must have another Deputy work that shift on paid over-time or comp time. Now, the board plans to cut budgeted overtime nearly in half. If they are unwilling to prioritize the safety of our families by not hiring needed deputies and then cut overtime, there is only one result – delayed emergency response and compromising your safety.
I guess it is more important to David Snider and Pete Rios to spend more than $6 million to renovate the county courthouse in Florence. Now we hear cost over runs of $1 million for the courthouse and I’m sure the Sheriff’s Office will somehow be blamed. Why renovate the courthouse now, while the board says they don’t have money for fuel for patrol deputies? Why does the board need newer and larger offices when other county buildings are available?
Even with this budget scam and cost shift by the board, the Sheriff’s Office budget is balanced. In fact we have nearly $2 million in additional monies available. We have generated a near record $12.8 million in revenue from contract Jail beds to the feds. No good deed goes unpunished by my political enemies, who have promised to raid these funds to pay for their union contract, ERE’s and increased fuel costs.
I’m so proud of the men and women I lead at the Sheriff’s Office, who risk their own personal safety and lives for all of us. We run a highly disciplined operation, evidenced by faster emergency response times, obtaining national accreditation for our jail, improved training and modern equipment for our staff to perform their duties. No one can disagree with the fact that our Sheriff’s Office is providing better service than four years ago. Thank you for your continued support of your Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and the men and women who are proud to serve you.
Paul Babeu, Sheriff
Pinal County, Arizona