Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries didn’t get an additional $1.6 million for next year’s budget.
Instead he was handed a list of suggested cuts – including reducing the number of inmates and using civilians as bailiffs instead of sworn officers.
The Allen County Council made it clear Thursday there was no money left in the general fund and any additional requests for funding not included in the budget and not reimbursed by revenue sources would be denied this year and next.
Fries’ department has a $20.8 million budget for 2013 and he asked for an additional $1.6 million for new squad cars, increased fuel and inmate food costs, inmate medical care, overtime pay, extra help at the jail and computers.
Fries said he has tried to cut and can’t.
“I tried to cut back on overtime and had 20 reserve officers quit this year already,” he said. “They’re overworked.”
Many of the squad cars are older models with too many miles on the odometers and are safety hazards, he said.
But council members said there are expenses that could be reduced or revenues that could be generated.
Councilman Tom Harris, R-2nd, suggested increasing the $15 fee to $55 for the delivery of civil service documents, increasing the fees paid annually by sex offenders or charging a booking or medical fee when someone is booked into the county jail.
Fries said it would take time to establish any of those options.
“Is it viable? Legal? Cost effective? And will it work?” Fries said.
Council president Larry Brown, R-4th, presented several options for cutting costs, including reducing the number of sworn officers, making officers pay for take-home cars, reducing the number of people jailed for misdemeanors, using civilians to serve civil papers and as bailiffs, verify hospital claim costs, buying gas in bulk and reducing the number of cars.
“It’s not personal,” Brown said to Fries, who was shaking his head as the list was being read.
“No, it’s not me,” Fries said tersely. “It will affect the citizens and the employees.”
The council did not adjourn the eight-hour meeting but rather called for a recess, agreeing to meet again Thursday after Fries has had time to evaluate the recommendations and find out if they are viable.
Earlier in the meeting, the council granted Fries about $235,000 for medical costs, hospital bills and overtime, because nearly all will be reimbursed in the near future through fees collected by the state. Fries cautioned that the state check is a one time annual payment that was intended for use throughout the year and that in just a month or two he will again be looking at more medical costs for inmates with no way to pay for them.
Council members also heard from eight other department heads who appealed, saying they need more money for next year’s budget.
Prosecutor Karen Richards withdrew her appeal asking for an additional $89,390 on top of the department’s $4 million budget.
“I will try to make more cuts, but I don’t know if I can,” Richards said. “If I have to come back in six months I want your cooperation and I want to know I will not be penalized.”
Richards said that sooner or later there will be no place to cut and county programs such as the child support department will be at risk.
“It may be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face,” she said.
Richards also weighed in on the council’s idea of cutting down on the number of people incarcerated for misdemeanors.
Richards said there are many internet prostitutes who ply their wares online and then meet their customers in Fort Wayne hotels.
“Those people need to go to jail,” she said. “Domestic batterers and animal abusers need to go to jail.”
No decisions are expected until the next council meeting on Oct. 18, but council members made it clear they are reluctant to grant any of the appeals for more money. The council wants to balance the nearly $85 million budget without dipping into the rainy day fund, which is expected to total about $12.5 million at year’s end.
Raises were approved for the clerk of courts, whose salary will go from $67,252 to $70,462; the clerk’s chief deputy, $58,847 to $61,847; and chief deputy auditor from $70,000 to $77,000.