Sheriff's department concerned about budget crunch

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Officials from the Marion County Sheriff’s Department say they are concerned that a $10 million gap in this year’s budget will hurt their ability to pay critical bills, such as hospital care for inmates and jail operations, over the next four months.

As the City-County Council begins hammering out the 2012 budget, discussions between Sheriff John Layton’s office and Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration are intensifying over how to address the department’s budgetary needs. The parties met on Monday to talk about the funding gap.

Republican leaders of the City-County Council insist the department, which receives 43 percent of the county’s funding, has room to find savings in its roughly $100 million budget. But officials from the sheriff’s department say they don’t know how they can cut any more without affecting basic services.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about jail beds and jail medical,” said Kevin Murray, an attorney for Layton, a Democrat who was elected last year. “The only way to do that is to cut the number of people who are incarcerated. There’s no question the situation is awful.”

The department’s primary duty is running the jail, but deputies also provide security at the City-County Building and serve arrest warrants.

There’s been tension over the scope of the office–and how much funding and manpower it needs–since Ballard in 2008 launched a restructuring that made the public safety director, rather than the sheriff, the top law enforcement officer.

The budget for the sheriff's department increased about 13 percent, to $105 million, last year. That’s when overdue payments to Wishard Memorial Hospital and Corrections Corporation of America, the private contractor that runs one of the county jails, came due.

To cover its costs this year, the department requested $113 million, an uptick driven by the increase in costs for inmate medical care at Wishard and a need for more jail beds at the jail run by Corrections Corporation of America.

Ballard’s administration and the council instead approved $103 million.

On top of that, the department had to foot new cost burdens, such as higher worker's compensation insurance expenses and contract-mandated salary increases.

Ben Hunter, a council Republican who leads the criminal justice committee, said the sheriff’s department will have to cut spending in other areas to close the $10 million gap.

Hunter, who leads Butler University’s police department, sees plenty of opportunities for both the sheriff and IMPD to operate more efficiently by combining functions such as training, fleet purchasing and human resources. He also questioned whether it was necessary for the sheriff’s department to purchase about 30 Dodge Chargers this year.

“We’re going to have to find efficiencies,” Hunter said. “That is what tax caps force you to do.”

Hunter said it’s realistic to winnow the $10 million gap to $2 million or $3 million and negotiate with vendors for flexibility on payments. Both Hunter and Chris Cotterill, Ballard’s chief of staff, said the city will not borrow money or raise taxes to make up the difference.

Sheriff’s officials say they have scoured for ways to find savings. For example, the department saved about $2.2 million by cutting 12 deputies from the main jail and changing the shift structure to reduce overtime costs, said Lt. Col. Louis Dezelan, who leads the department’s administration division.

The department opted for Dodge Chargers, he said, because they cost an average of $1,000 less than new Crown Victorias and get better gas mileage. The department also has purchased 17 used Crown Victorias from the Speedway Police Department—which produced a savings of about $265,000 compared with purchasing new vehicles.

The office also looked at savings in such areas as office supplies as fuel.

The biggest challenge, Dezlan said, is the cost associated with sending inmates to Wishard. Typically, the sheriff’s office gets stuck with the bill after IMPD officers send them there upon arrest.

In about 90 percent of cases, those arrestees are not admitted because they don’t need overnight care. Dezlan said a good number could be treated in-house, but deputies don’t get to decide that.

“A lot of it is totally out of our control,” Dezlan said.

The department is working with the city’s efficiency experts to address that problem.

Meanwhile, Cotterill said the city will look at a slew of options to find a way to help the department this year.

 “We’ll have an honest and frank dialogue about ideas for savings,” Cotterill said, “and work through it.”


  • layton
    No wonder he wanted Kennedy as Mayor!!!

    What was the benefit of Merging Sheriff and IPD??

  • crazy
    This article does not even begin to scratch the surface of the problems within the Sheriff's office. As a Deputy all I can say is that the problems are multifaceted, start with Layton and his administration, and run very, very deep. There are an amazing number of examples of cronism, mismanagement, abuses, lies, misinformation, possible corruption, employee problems being brushed under the rug, etc. Someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, somebody will blow the whistle on this place. When that happens the community will finally begin to see how poorly thier tax dollars are being spent.
  • Not Needed
    The sheriffs department runs the jail and serves warrants does that require a Charger?
  • Why Chargers
    Why does the Sheriffs department need Chargers, they are responsible for traffic enforcement.
  • Jail

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Aaron is my fav!

  2. Let's see... $25M construction cost, they get $7.5M back from federal taxpayers, they're exempt from business property tax and use tax so that's about $2.5M PER YEAR they don't have to pay, permitting fees are cut in half for such projects, IPL will give them $4K under an incentive program, and under IPL's VFIT they'll be selling the power to IPL at 20 cents / kwh, nearly triple what a gas plant gets, about $6M / year for the 150-acre combined farms, and all of which is passed on to IPL customers. No jobs will be created either other than an handful of installers for a few weeks. Now here's the fun part...the panels (from CHINA) only cost about $5M on Alibaba, so where's the rest of the $25M going? Are they marking up the price to drive up the federal rebate? Indy Airport Solar Partners II LLC is owned by local firms Johnson-Melloh Solutions and Telemon Corp. They'll gross $6M / year in triple-rate power revenue, get another $12M next year from taxpayers for this new farm, on top of the $12M they got from taxpayers this year for the first farm, and have only laid out about $10-12M in materials plus installation labor for both farms combined, and $500K / year in annual land lease for both farms (est.). Over 15 years, that's over $70M net profit on a $12M investment, all from our wallets. What a boondoggle. It's time to wise up and give Thorium Energy your serious consideration. See http://energyfromthorium.com to learn more.

  3. Markus, I don't think a $2 Billion dollar surplus qualifies as saying we are out of money. Privatization does work. The government should only do what private industry can't or won't. What is proven is that any time the government tries to do something it costs more, comes in late and usually is lower quality.

  4. Some of the licenses that were added during Daniels' administration, such as requiring waiter/waitresses to be licensed to serve alcohol, are simply a way to generate revenue. At $35/server every 3 years, the state is generating millions of dollars on the backs of people who really need/want to work.

  5. I always giggle when I read comments from people complaining that a market is "too saturated" with one thing or another. What does that even mean? If someone is able to open and sustain a new business, whether you think there is room enough for them or not, more power to them. Personally, I love visiting as many of the new local breweries as possible. You do realize that most of these establishments include a dining component and therefore are pretty similar to restaurants, right? When was the last time I heard someone say "You know, I think we have too many locally owned restaurants"? Um, never...