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Published: Thursday, 5/13/2010

Sheriff over budget, looking to trim costs

BLADE STAFF

The Lucas County Sheriff's Office is running over budget and is investigating ways to cut costs, including possible deputy layoffs, county officials said yesterday.

Sheriff James Telb did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment.

Pete Gerken, president of the Lucas County commissioners, said he was aware Sheriff Telb had discussed cutbacks with the union representing deputies.

"We gave them some information three or four weeks ago that they were running well ahead of their budget," Mr. Gerken said. "In [road patrols], I think they were 48 percent of the budget in the first quarter."

Mr. Gerken laid the burden of maintaining a balanced budget on Sheriff Telb.

"I would encourage the sheriff to live within his budget just like the auditor, the recorder, and the commissioners," he said. "All of the other county offices are working within their budgets."

Peter Ujvagi, Lucas County administrator, said he understands the sheriff's department is in negotiations with the United Auto Workers union that represents sheriff's deputies.

"Their budget, the budget that was set last year, they're spending dollars pretty quickly and so they're now looking at what they need to do to be able to meet their budget," Mr. Ujvagi said. "So I do not believe any layoff notices have gone out. I do know they have had some discussions with the bargaining unit."

A report from the commissioners' office dated April 20 showed the sheriff's department's spent more in the first quarter of 2010 than in the first quarter of 2009, even though its budget had been reduced.

The sheriff's budget was $33.2 million for 2010, down from $35.3 million in 2009.

According to the report, the sheriff spent $9,046,771 in the first quarter of this year, compared with $8,601,826 in the corresponding quarter of 2009.

The law enforcement portion of the sheriff's budget for 2010 was already 42 percent spent by the end of the first quarter.

The sheriff's office's 2010 budget is divided into five categories: public safety court security, $3.8 million; law enforcement, $3.8 million; administration, $2.9 million; correction center or jail, $21.3 million, and medical corrections center, $1.5 million.

Salaries, the biggest chunk of the $3.8 million law enforcement budget for 2010, stood at 48.7 percent spent as of the end of the first quarter. The sheriff's department had 511 full-time employees in 2009.

Spending for the jail was tracking closely to its $21.3 million budget, with 24.5 percent spent in the first quarter.

The commissioners coordinate the budgets of all the county agencies, but have limited control over the day-to-day spending in other elected officials' departments.

To save money, the sheriff has reduced patrols in the townships and has assigned the so-called drive-by appraisals of foreclosed properties - jobs that went to political friends of the sheriffs over the years - to in-house deputies to keep the income in county coffers.

The idea of layoffs was floated Last November to help balance the books.

Commissioner Ben Konop at the time said the sheriff's office was threatened with 60 layoffs, but said he worked with the sheriff and a union representing sheriff's deputies to avert layoffs. Yesterday, Mr. Konop said he is still opposed to laying off deputies.



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