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Sheriff's department concerned about budget crunch

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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.”

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  • 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
    hi

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  1. I think the poster was being sarcastic and only posting or making fun of what is usually posted on here about anything being built in BR or d'town for that matter.

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  3. So disappointed in WIBC. This is the last straw to lose a good local morning program. I used to be able to rely on WIBC to give me good local information, news, weather and traffic on my 45 minute commute.Two incidents when I needed local, accurate information regarding severe weather were the first signs I could not now rely on WIBC. I work weekend 12 hour nights for a downtown hospital. This past winter when we had the worst snowfall in my 50 years of life, I came home on a Sunday morning, went to sleep (because I was to go back in Sunday night for another 12 hour shift), and woke up around 1 p.m. to a house with no electricity. I keep an old battery powered radio around and turned on WIBC to see what was going on with the winter storm and the roads and the power outage. Sigh. Only policital stuff. Not even a break in to update on the winter storm warning. The second weather incident occurred when I was driving home during a severe thunderstorm a few months ago. I had already gotten a call from my husband that a tornado warning was just southwest of where I had been. I turned to WIBC to find out what direction the storm was headed so I could figure out a route home, only to find Rush on the air, and again, no breaking away from this stupidity to give me information. Thank God for my phone, which gave me the warning that I was driving in an area where a tornado was seen. Thanks for nothing WIBC. Good luck to you, Steve! We need more of you and not the politics of hatred that WIBC wants to shove at us. Good thing I have Satellite radio.

  4. I read the retail roundup article and tried Burritos and Beers tonight. I'm glad I did, for the food was great. Fresh authentic Mexican food. Great seasoning on the carne asada. A must try!!! Thanks for sharing.

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