Garfield County commissioners, Vallario debate proposed 2012 sheriff’s budget |

Garfield County commissioners, Vallario debate proposed 2012 sheriff’s budget

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Sheriff Lou Vallario needs to trim his proposed $19 million budget for 2012 to meet the request of the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).

At Monday’s BOCC meeting, the commissioners and the sheriff could not agree on what can or should be cut, although Commissioner Tom Jankovsky suggested that $600,000 might be a comfortable amount.

The sheriff has proposed a budget of nearly $19.2 million, slightly more than $9,000 lower than his amended budget for 2011. The amended budget is what the numbers for a given year look like after a variety of amendments are made throughout the year.

According to county finance director Lisa Dawson, Vallario is not asking for any additional personnel this year, keeping his staff at 151 road deputies, jail staff and other positions.

Although Vallario, as an elected official, runs his own department and budget independent from the BOCC, his budget is subject to BOCC approval.

In order to come to some agreement on the 2012 budget, the sheriff and the BOCC are scheduled to meet in a work session on Oct. 25.

At Monday’s BOCC meeting, Jankovsky referred to a $7 million gap between the county’s anticipated revenues for next year, which are $113 million, and its expenditures, currently projected for $120 million.

“We’re going to have to come back and find 7 million bucks,” Jankovsky told Vallario, after questioning the sheriff’s budget figures.

“I budget for what we know,” returned Vallario, mentioning such diverse matters as the utility payments for his department’s facilities and other operational expenses, “and for some of the unknowns.”

One unknown he mentioned was a series of trips to England in 2010 by deputies working on the extradition of accused killer Marcus Bebb-Jones.

Bebb-Jones, an English citizen, is alleged to have murdered his wife in 1997 while living in Grand Junction, and dumping her body in a remote part of Garfield County.

Reacting to Jankovsky’s remarks, Vallario said one area that could be cut is the department’s $500,000 emergency fund, which is budgeted annually and held for unexpected needs.

“Then, if we have a fire, I can come to you guys and say I need money,” Vallario continued.

“I think we’ve done a great job of maintaining (fiscal discipline), as you requested,” Vallario said. He noted that over the past two years, he identified about $5 million that was budgeted for 2010 and 2011 but was left unspent.

Stressing that he is willing to work with the BOCC to find savings in his proposed budget for next year, Vallario added, “We will be back in the middle of the year begging for money that we cut out now.”

Although Jankovsky did most of the talking with Vallario, the other commissioners appeared to be in agreement with his sentiments.

“I think we’re going to have to be prudent,” said Commissioner Mike Samson, noting that the county is expecting future declines on federal and state payments into the county’s coffers for a variety of programs, thanks to the ongoing recession.

County manager Ed Green pointed out that, over the past couple of years, other county departments besides the sheriff have cinched up their belts and spent less than they were budgeted for, to the tune of $8 million.

“That’s why we call it a budget,” Vallario chimed in. “We’re not padding anything here, and I would resent anyone for saying that.”

Following another discussion about cutting community involvement expenses, Vallario said, “I appreciate your balanced budget and everything.”

But, maintaining that cuts would be detrimental to his department’s ability to do its job, he then requested, “Let us do what we’ve done so well for the last nine years.”

“We might be able to nickel and dime it,” said Commissioner John Martin, “not (make) big cuts, which we don’t like to see.”

Agreeing with the principle, Vallario concluded, “This is not adversarial. This is just me fighting for my piece of the pie.”

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