County board asks sheriff to cut $111,000 from budget.

October 26, 2018

County board asks sheriff to cut $111,000 from budget.


By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART – The county board of commissioners is asking Sheriff Craig Mast to cut $111,000 from the department’s $3.7 million budget, and the sheriff says there is nothing more to cut from his bare-bones budget.

“They want me to cut extensively, and I already have a skeleton crew that I can’t cut,” Mast said.

“We are the only 24-hour law enforcement in the county. We support everybody else,” the sheriff said in reference to aiding other local departments.

“Today, I have two deputies on patrol and two at the jail with 60 prisoners.”

The Oceana County Jail has been at or near capacity in recent years.

The county board unanimously adopted the county’s 2019 budget this week, said Oceana County Administrator Robert Sobie. “It was adopted with work yet to be done.”

The budget, which totals $10,643,738, has a $440,000 shortfall, the administrator said. The county had to tap into its reserve funds, or savings, to make up for the nearly half a million dollar shortfall. The shortfall started at $810,000, but adjustments were made to bring it down to $440,000.

In an effort to reduce expenditures, the county board is asking for cuts to all departments – not just the sheriff’s office.

“We’re looking for opportunities to reduce operating costs by working with the sheriff’s office, courts and other departments,” Sobie said.

“Do we need to reduce our personnel costs? Everything should be on the table,” he said.

The sheriff’s office employs 39 people, Mast said.

“The board has insisted that the sheriff look at the budget goal,” said Sobie. The $111,000 requested reduction represents 3 percent of the sheriff’s office annual budget.

The county cannot continue to tap into its reserve funds, or the money will eventually run out. “It’s a long-term problem that we’re not going to find a solution to quickly,” Sobie said.

Of the $10.6 million budget, the sheriff’s office uses 35 percent of the funds. The courts use 15 percent. All of the other departments are included in the remaining 50 percent.

The county is asking the sheriff to reduce operating costs, which are “day-to-day” expenses, such as contractural services/personnel, utilities and office supplies – not patrol cars, Sobie said. Patrol cars are included in capital purchases, and the board is not asking for reductions in that part of the budget. “We have to keep our facilities and equipment upgraded.”

Property taxes are the county’s largest revenue source, Sobie said.

It would not be a popular decision to ask voters for a tax increase to cover budget expenditures, “nor has any commissioner suggested it,” he said. Oceana is the seventh highest taxed county in the state with one of the lowest median incomes.

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