Misconception Monday - County Budget, June 20, 2022
Each year the Sheriff’s Office returns any unused funds back to the county's general budget to be repurposed and used to fund the following year's budget. The bulk of the unused funds are from budgeted positions that were not filled throughout the year; this can amount to several million dollars. The other returned funds are overages from budget lines such as building maintenance, fuel for vehicles, and etc. The County Commissioners ensure that the Sheriff’s Office has enough funding to account for unforeseen circumstances that may come up throughout the year such as major building repairs, spikes in fuel costs or other unexpected issues that may creep up. They allow us this latitude because of the trust built up over decades knowing that we as an agency are good stewards of the budgeted funds and will not act in an untrustworthy manner.
No funds can be kept and rolled over into a separate line for the next year as all funding lines are zeroed out and the overages repurposed for the new budget year. The employee compensation lines should never be spent on other purposes by the Sheriff’s Office and must be returned. My opponents are correct in that some other lines of funding could theoretically be used and spent during the current budget year for other previously unbudgeted purposes and not given back. Should this be taken advantage of, however, would break the trust between the commissioners and the Sheriff’s Office and in all likelihood would result in the department receiving a reduced budget the following year, only receiving a strictly structured budget based on what was spent the prior year on “normal” budgeted items. The department would no longer be allocated the funding to cover unforeseen circumstances. Any additional funds needed would have to be requested through a budget amendment process and approved during a public meeting each time something in addition to what was originally budgeted for came up.
If a sheriff wants to fund a new project, request, or additional positions, the procedure for this is to submit it as a request for a budget increase to cover the additional cost, which is reviewed by the commissioners, during the budget talks each spring and voted on at a public meeting. We cannot squirrel away budget overages and sock it into some kind of slush fund for later use on pet projects. This may work in a municipality but it just does not work that way in county government. I hope this clears up any misconceptions. Stay safe and God bless.