Jan 12, 2014

Department heads concerned over sheriff’s 2014 budget

BY BOB ROBINSON
ASSOC. EDITOR
GREENVILLE – The biggest concern for Darke County department heads was the trickle-down effect… Darke County Sheriff Toby Spencer gets $310,697 more money in 2014 than he got in 2013. In addition, according to Darke County Judge Jonathan Hein, $135,000 for vehicle purchases was removed from the sheriff’s budget and moved to the commissioner’s line item. The new money, according to Spencer, will be used for an additional drug detective, a regular assignment detective and an administrative person to free up his officers from reports.

The concern initiated from a memorandum by Hein to all department heads. It was dated Dec. 23, 2013.

More activity by sheriff’s deputies means additional burdens put on the courts, probation, prosecutor, clerk of courts, recovery and mental health. There’s already an increased burden from Columbus mandates.

“The state doesn’t want our non-violent offenders, even if they’re repeat offenders,” Hein said. “We have to deal with them locally.”

Hein’s response to the funding decision was to tell the commissioners he was adding an additional officer in the Adult Probation Department.

“As long as I have a good reason, they (commissioners) have to go along with it,” he said.

Darke County Prosecutor Kelly Ormsby was hopeful. The commissioners said Ormsby was willing to take a “wait and see” attitude.

“Actually that’s more what I was told to do,” Ormsby said. He added more money to the sheriff is going to generate more cases, so he renewed his request for another assistant prosecutor. The commissioners told him they’d look at his request again in June; there simply wasn’t enough money now.

“I’m hopeful they’re going to do it,” he said.

Darke County Auditor Carol Ginn said it wasn’t likely the commissioners’ plan would affect her department. “The Budget Commission (Treasurer, Prosecutor and Auditor) gives them the money. It’s up to them how to spend it,” she said. “That’s their job.”

Darke County Treasurer Scott Zumbrink said the decision would have no immediate effect. “Long term maybe,” he added. “If we get into another budget crunch, who gets cut? It takes all offices to allow the county to function.”

Darke County Clerk of Courts Cindy Pike said she worried about cause and effect… “If someone else is doing more, what are the people supporting that effort going to do?”

“Where’s the (sheriff’s) money going to come from,” she added. All departments had been told to flat-line their budgets for 2014. “If there’s a one-time windfall this year, what about next year?”

According to Ginn, there is an unencumbered balance over $3.7 million carried over from 2013 into 2014. The money will come from that.

Spencer didn’t take issue with any of the concerns of the other department heads. He understood them and he wasn’t going to try to micromanage their departments. He has a drug problem in Darke County.

“The heroin problem in Darke County is horrendous… I can’t sit back and do nothing.” He said he didn’t think about the money. “I think about public safety and the impact it has on Darke County.”

Spencer said he was getting three cruisers after the first of the year. Some are currently over 200,000 miles and maintenance costs are high. He added he’s gotten one new one in the last five years; most vehicles are being bought used from Missouri. They have junk cars they use for parts to keep their vehicles running.

“We’re out there 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When I came on the force, I went to Dayton, bought my uniform, strapped on my weapon and was told the next day I was on patrol.”

That isn’t the way things are done today. Spencer said he has to pay overtime because it takes six months to train a new recruit due to state and federal regulations.

“Back then we had maybe one call per shift,” he said. “Now our deputies are kept busy all the time.”

Spencer added his wish is anybody involved in drugs goes to jail. Realistic? No, but that’s what he works toward.

“I want the general public to know fighting drugs is a top priority,” Spencer said.

Darke County Engineer Jim Surber said he’d like to see more figures on Hein’s memo, noting it was hard for him to comment.

“The only commissioners dealings with my department are to take money away or give me more responsibilities without giving me more money,” he said.

Surber recalled when Jim Irwin was Darke County Sheriff. It was about 1978. Irwin went to the commissioners…

“I need another $1,000.” The commissioners told him no. “We don’t have it.”

They had zero debt and a multi-million dollar surplus. “They were tight-fisted then… it was the people’s money.”

Today, the county is $6,510,000 in debt and the carry-over for 2014 has been budgeted.

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