Commonwealth Slashes Sheriff Office Budget

Clarke County Sheriff Department says that it will lose $49,737 in Virginia Compensation Board funding in fiscal year 2011, a little more than 7% of its $705K budget. While the funding decrease amounts to one full-time-equivalent position Clarke County Sheriff, Tony Roper remains optimistic that his department can avoid lay-offs.

“Right now we know that our state funding will decline. However, Clarke County could elect to further reduce our funding, leave it the same or increase it. We won’t know for sure until the new budget is finalized by the Board of Supervisors,” Sheriff Roper said. Roper says that he realizes economic times are difficult and is hoping that the final numbers will allow him to continue operations without releasing staff.sheriff-badge

Several budget balancing moves are currently being considered including a freeze on capital expenditures like police vehicles and equipment. “Saying that we delay buying a new cruiser sounds simple, but it’s really a balancing act. Older vehicles have higher maintenance costs. There’s also that possibility that an older vehicle could break down when we’re on our way to an emergency,” according to Roper.

Sheriff Roper is also looking at shifting funds from programs like the School Resource Officer and Homeland Security grants to standard patrol and investigative operations.

In spite of the challenging economic conditions Roper believes that Clarke County can maintain an acceptable level of service, at least for the coming year. However, he cautioned that his department has been significantly stretched over the past three years by austere budgets. “I know that everyone is hurting right now, but between pay level freezes and increased healthcare costs my staff has actually lost ground financially over the past couple of years.”

When asked if budget challenges have resulted in Sheriff Department personnel leaving Clarke County for better paying positions in neighboring jurisdictions Roper replied, “No, so far we’ve been fortunate, but I don’t know how long that will last. Our mission is to protect the people of Clarke County and we’ll do everything possible to continue to do that. This just makes it a little tougher.”