Between cuts, possible fee increases and more than $1 million in unanticipated income taxes, Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries’ budget problems may be a thing of the past.
For the next year, at least.
Fries, whose proposed 2013 budget was about $1.6 million more than the $20.8 million initially offered by County Council, on Thursday agreed to cut his request by $791,000. Fries had originally requested $400,000 for new squad cars but will tap the department’s commissary fund instead, which contains about $400,000 paid by inmates for personal items. Fries also told Council members he’s willing to cut $86,000 from officers’ clothing allowance and $100,000 from his overtime budget. Other savings include a cut of nearly $12,000 in educational programs for jail inmates.
“If employees are going to suffer, so will inmates,” Fries said.
Council, which in July asked departments to cut their 2013 budgets by 2.3 percent, could still seek more cuts. But Fries, who has said he may need another $800,000 this year to pay inmates’ health-care costs, said he will continue to pay those bills next year despite previously suggesting he may refuse to pay for pre-existing conditions, as required by state law.
Councilman Darren Vogt assured Fries Council will provide the money needed to pay the bills, but President Larry Brown said he will continue to encourage the General Assembly to exempt pre-existing conditions from coverage.
Brown said voter-imposed caps on property taxes signaled the public’s desires for governments to cut spending and impose user fees where possible. To that end, Fries said he hopes to be able to add a $5 probation charge to pay for the department’s sex offender data base and to increase fees for the serving of civil papers.
But County Auditor Tera Klutz offered Fries and Council members the best news of the day: the likelihood that local income taxes will generate about $1.04 million more than anticipated next year.
Council could decide to tap that money, its $14 million rainy day fund, or both, in order to reduce or eliminate Fries’ need for additional cuts.
Fries’ presentation was made in crowded Council chamber, with many spectators employees of the Sheriff’s Department.