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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Demands create budget shortfall in sheriff’s office

Friday, January 24, 2014

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton has been doing "a juggling act" with balancing his budget with demands, and he is facing a funding shortage for the current fiscal year.

That was the message he delivered to the board of supervisors Tuesday afternoon as he requested extra funding to handle the projected $150,000 shortfall for this year.

The board agreed to approve $50,000 now, but not without some advice from several supervisors.

Overton said the shortage has been triggered by a combination of an increase in court services and arrests, as well as extra demands, such as school security after the Sandy Hook shooting.

The sheriff's office has also been aggressive in drug investigations, he added, and transports have risen.

Part-timers are used often and the funding would primarily go toward their salaries.

"It (the rise in demands) is a scenario that is unfortunate, but the trend is what it is," Overton said. "It is a challenging and difficult (budgeting) process with the demands put on us."

Statistics show that trend.

According to information presented to the board by the sheriff, arrests in 2011 totaled 1,791, and that number jumped to 2,231 in 2013. Traffic summonses have increased from 744 in 2011 to 2,667 in 2013 (the sheriff's office began using radar in 2012). Calls for service have jumped from 18,803 in 2011 to 31,474 in 2013.

Overton said he has made many moves to save money, including having officers fill in to decrease overtime and comp time, and making sure part-time employees work no more than 29 hours a week.

But unexpected problems arise, he said, including the necessity to put three officers on a mandated administrative leave after a shooting in Ferrum recently.

But Gills Creek Supervisor Bob Camicia said he could not differentiate expenditures in Overton's department, the reasons for the costs and whether they are necessary.

"What are the ones (activities) we have to do versus the ones we want to do?" he asked.

Overton said things, such as officer safety and response time, are high priorities.

"But you've got to operate within a budget," Camicia said. "Your budget is totally out of whack ... you also have to manage a budget (besides other duties)."

"I have done everything I can," Overton said. "We are putting safety and other issues first."

"I don't know where we can find that kind of money ($150,000)," said Rocky Mount District Supervisor Charles Wagner.

County administrator Rick Huff said about $60,000 is available in the general fund from money related to tickets written by the sheriff's office. All of those proceeds (with the exception of DUI and other more serious traffic offenses) must go into the county general fund, he added.

That fund, Huff said, has about $93, 000, with more than $30,000 already earmarked.

"I can't tell you how we can find the other $100,000," he said.

Huff said Overton has until June 30 to balance this year's budget. "He would have to make some tough choices (to balance the budget)," he added.

"I see no choice but to make it (sheriff's office budget) whole for today (by approving the $50,000)," said Ronnie Thompson, Boone District supervisor. "But you (Overton) can't let it get this bad in the future."

Both Camicia and Wagner, though, had problems with taking money from the ticket revenue to give to the sheriff's office.

Camicia said it is "really dangerous" to give funds generated by sheriff's office fines back to the department.

"We could be turning into a big Boones Mill here," he said, referring to a reputation Boones Mill used to have of being a speed trap to raise money for the town.

"We don't want to look like we are writing tickets to raise funds," Wagner agreed.

In the end, though, supervisors approved up to $50,000 for the sheriff's office, with the hope of finding some funds from other sources to avoid using the entire $50,000.

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