FREMONT — With 80 chickens ready for butchering and a garden overflowing with produce, Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer was branded a hero on Wednesday — a hero to taxpayers.
State Auditor Dave Yost was in Fremont to present the cost-conscious sheriff with the first-ever Taxpayer Hero Award, created to recognize innovative ideas by government entities to cut costs and increase efficiency. Sheriff Overmyer reduced the jail’s annual food budget to $88,000 in 2011 from the $120,000 it was when he took office in 2008.
Sheriff Overmyer said raising chickens, fruit, and vegetables has saved about $20,000 a year, with the rest of the savings coming from changes he made after becoming sheriff: serving inmates one, instead of three, hot meals a day; cutting out brand-name cereal and other foods; eliminating coffee; and buying food from Ohio vendors rather than an out-of-state supplier.
The jail's kitchen staff not only feeds inmates with the produce and chickens raised in the jail's backyard, it also cans tomatoes and other produce to use over the winter. Surplus is donated to local soup kitchens. The inmates tend the garden and chickens. All expenses are covered by donations.
"I have not spent a dime of taxpayer money to take care of the garden or the chickens," the sheriff said. "It's all donated for that purpose. Nothing comes out of my regular budget."
Mr. Yost said in a written statement that the garden is a "win-win" for Sandusky County. "Sheriff Overmyer found a way to save a significant amount of money while at the same time giving back to the community," Mr. Yost said. "That's a real taxpayer hero, and I am proud to recognize his hard work."
After his stop in Fremont, Mr. Yost drove to Toledo to present the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library an Award with Distinction for having a clean financial audit. The award is presented to local governments and school districts that file timely reports with the state auditor's office, that have audits with no findings for recovery, citations, deficiencies, or weaknesses, and that meet other criteria.
Library Director Clyde Scoles commended the library's finance staff for providing sound fiscal practices. The library, which is asking Lucas County voters to approve a five-year, 2.9-mill levy Nov. 6, "prides itself on spending public tax dollars wisely," Mr. Scoles said. Two mills of the levy are a renewal and 0.9 mill would be an additional tax.