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Sheriff’s View #52A for Dec. 27 to 31, 2010
Sheriff’s View #52A for Dec. 27 to 31, 2010

Sheriff J.B. King

Welcome aboard for the very last column of 2010. Yes, I know the column number assigned as 52A looks funny, but so would calling it #53 for the year, and with the extra days left, I just could not call it #1 for 2011 — so here we are with column #52A. I hope you like numbers because there are going to be a bunch of them in this column.

The reason there will be a bunch of numbers is because the County Clerk gave me the two main sheets of expenses (sheriff operations and jail expense) for 2010 yesterday that I need to crunch for the 2011 budget so I am staying home today, Dec. 24, to crunch numbers for the new budget. If I try this at the office, I get constant interruptions, so I will play and work on the home computer today. I do try to make accurate predictions as to what we will spend in a year and so far over the past six years, with the exception of auto expenses and the inmate board bill; I am usually close to the mark. With both the auto and inmate board budget lines, the factors that drive the expenses there are beyond my control.

As an example, right now my research to date says that gas prices will shoot up this year as the recession comes under control. Gas at close to $3.75 per gallon may be the case we face by June or July. So how do we set the budget to reflect that kind of increase? The answer is that in many cases like this in the budget, we do not set an accurate line cost for the item at hand because the simple fact of life is that Pulaski County does not have the revenue to spread around to cover the needed costs. What happens is that a yearly cost figure is set in the final budget that we know full well will not cover the actual cost of doing business because we must present a “balanced budget” to the state by the end of January, 2011. That means guessestimated revenue incoming must equal guessestimated revenue outgoing for the year.

Which rabbit hole did Alice go down?

As an example, we set the 2010 inmate board budget at $277,000 which should have been close to the mark. Then we got hit with two late 2009 jail bills in January of 2010 that had to come out of this year’s budget. To make it worse, we made sure we would not get hit with late bills this year so we had the jail bills faxed here and as a result they included the first ten of so days of December on the bill, so we had a double hit that does not normally occur. The board bill for January was $49,040 and the one for December was $60,708. In contrast, the bill for April was $10,500 and for June $9,625 and for July $20,074. The bottom line is that inmate board cost us $355,094.00 for 2010. That means we were $78,094.00 over budget in the board bill.

When it comes to the inmate board bill our local “shop at home” program is not going very well. Since 2001, we have spent a total of $3,229,872 for inmate board bills outside of Pulaski County. That figure represents about one third of the money needed to build our own jail in order to keep our tax dollars at work in Pulaski County. Since this is a family column, I will not tell you exactly how I feel (bad words) about this waste of money, but by now you should be able to guess quite well if you read my columns on a regular basis.

On to auto expenses. For 2009 it was (actual spent) $108,691 and for 2010 it was $137,927. We had been budgeted for $110,800 for 2010. We were fairly sure we would be over budget here at the start of the year. I had requested $120,000 so even if they had given me the full figure we would have gone over. Higher gas prices and more work hours by our reserve deputies helped drive the cost upward on auto expense. On the other hand, we set another record of sorts. We only had to replace one engine and we only had three transmission repairs this year. This was due to the aggressive maintenance program Maj. Tom Cristoffer has in place and also due to the fact we got rid of five of our older cars and replaced them with 2005 and 2006 models. The single replacement engine for 2010 was most unusual and a definite low mark for our fleet history, but it was made even better by the fact we already had a replacement engine on hand from a wrecked car so we did not have to buy a new engine.

Our last big miss was in the dispatch salary. We spent $100,374 in 2009 and spent $91,203 in 2010, but we had only been given $73,424 for dispatch this year, so we were over budget. As for the rest, we were right at or under budget everywhere else so we gained a little money to offset the overages. Our approved budget for 2010 was $1,337,822 (sheriff operations $743,978 and jail $593,844) and we spent $1,463,069 (operations $787,225 & jail $675,844) so we were $125,247 over budget and $78,094 of that was in inmate board.

Since several of the budget lines were not set in a realistic way for 2010, I think we did just fine, but I would prefer to be able to say we were under budget. That did not happen. You have now read enough budget numbers and it is time to close. Once again I must say: Please drive with care and please keep your actions legal. As you have already seen we do not need your body in our tiny jail running up costs, but the jail light bulb burns bright!

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