Sheriff eyes $800,000 in cuts to 2012 budget |

Sheriff eyes $800,000 in cuts to 2012 budget

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario has offered to trim more than $800,000 from his proposed 2012 budget, which currently stands at nearly $19.2 million.

The overall proposed Garfield County budget for the coming year anticipates $113 million in revenues and expenditures of $120 million, with the $7 million difference to be filled from the county’s fund balances.

Vallario told the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) Tuesday that 2012 budget cuts can come from paying any new employees at the low end of each job’s starting salary range, by giving smaller raises for promotions, by not filling all vacancies, by eliminating raises linked to performance evaluations and by not creating any new staff positions.

With those measures, Vallario said he can cut his proposed overall budget by $829,823.

When Vallario first presented his 2012 budget in October, County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky asked for cuts of at least $600,000.

The BOCC met again with Vallario in a work session Tuesday to discuss his proposed cuts, as part of the commissioners’ ongoing review of departmental budget proposals.

Although the sheriff is an elected official independent from operational oversight by the BOCC, by state law he must submit his annual budget for the commissioners’ approval.

The sheriff oversees the largest single department in county government, with approximately 150 employees.

Of the sheriff’s $19.2 million total 2012 budget, $12.8 million is budgeted for salaries and benefits, and $6.6 million is budgeted for operations, which are the day-to-day costs of running the department.

The department’s proposed budget for 2012, according to Vallario’s calculations, would involve increases of more than $933,000 in salaries and benefits, over the final 2010 budget.

At the same time, according to Vallario’s budget work sheet, he is calling for a decrease of more than $608,000 in operating expenses compared to 2010.

The sheriff’s finance officer, Cathy Redman, told the Post Independent the comparison was intended to show the BOCC that over the past two years, the department has reined in operating expenses, even as personnel costs have increased.

Vallario told the commissioners he has cut the 2012 budget in as many areas as he could.

“We’re frugal and we’re responsible,” he told the BOCC. “I guess what I’m saying is, I’m willing to make the ice a little thinner and stand on it,” in terms of working with the county to trim costs.

He pointed to the county’s healthy fund balances – cash reserves that are expected to be close to $100 million by the end of this year – as a way to offset revenue declines and budget shortfalls during the ongoing recession.

“There does come a time,” Vallario said, “when, as a citizen, I ask, if you’re not spending it on sustaining services, what are you saving for?”

The commissioners have noted repeatedly over the last couple of years that the county’s fund balances need to be protected until lean times, when they can be drawn down to maintain service levels.

The BOCC will continue to refine the proposed 2012 budget in the coming weeks, and expects to adopt the budget in December.

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