The extent and severity of budget cuts to public safety services remains unknown at this time, however.
“We’re not exactly sure what the impacts are going to be,” Undersheriff Todd Vinger said.
County commissioners have directed all department managers to submit 10 percent reduction plans by July 29 in order to help meet the additional $2.5 million state legislative impact on the $311 million general fund county budget.
It’s likely that departments will not face a full 10 percent reduction, but each will have to sustain more cuts than previously proposed as the state pushes down the costs for certain social services and passes off responsibility for others to the county level.
Vinger believes county commissioners have made public safety funding a top priority and hopes to avoid as many cuts as possible.
But he acknowledges that as the budget process drags on into the fiscal year, employee morale will suffer as the prospect of layoffs hang over employees’ heads.
“I see it as the loss of people, not positions,” Vinger said of this looming possibility.
Sixty-one jobs have been eliminated in the sheriff’s office since the recession hit in 2007 and 14 more, including eight deputies, already have been proposed to meet a 1.7 percent budget reduction for the current fiscal year, which began July 1.
A decrease in the types of calls the sheriff’s office will respond to has emerged with these low-end proposed cuts, including disputes where the suspect has left the scene; non-life-threatening burglary alarms; those where no firearm or evidence is available; and thefts whose value is less than $2,500.
Additional cuts will likely limit patrol services and background investigations, according to sheriff’s officials.
“It depends on how soon they’ll need those reductions,” Vinger said.
He added that layoffs don’t mean just the loss of jobs or services, but also a decline in quality of life across the community.