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Hall sheriff’s office organizes budget oversight committee

Salary and benefits account for 80 percent of expenses

POSTED: June 29, 2011 10:30 p.m.

Hall County has spent weeks trying to determine where to make budget cuts, and now the sheriff's office has assembled a Budget Oversight Committee to take a critical look at that office's expenses for next year.

"The committee will look at all areas of the sheriff's office and make recommendations regarding any possible cuts or adjustments that need to be made," Col. Jeff Strickland said. "Nothing is off limits to the committee, and we welcome the review. We feel a fresh set of eyes by well-qualified people will have a positive result for the sheriff's office and the citizens we serve."

The committee is composed of 12 people, including two former sheriffs, two former commission chairmen, a former federal magistrate judge, a former state legislator and a mix of local businessmen and businesswomen, Strickland said.

Jim Walters, a businessman on the committee, said the group met for several hours last Friday.

"I think it's a good committee," he said. "It was a good mix of people who were familiar with the budget process, familiar with the sheriff's office and familiar with the county commission. I thought (Sheriff Steve Cronic) had done a great job. (The budget) was certainly well thought out and well planned. It certainly answered all the questions I would have had about the sheriff's office and how money is spent."

But the last meeting was just the beginning. The group will get together again after the July Fourth holiday to discuss more specific cuts.

Strickland said any savings they are able to generate will go back into the Hall County general fund.

"We didn't see a whole lot of ways (the sheriff's office) could cut a lot out of the budget," Walters said. "They're down to the bare bones and there's just not much left to cut. When you start cutting services, you're asking for trouble — especially in law enforcement."

Philip Wilheit Sr., also a member of the committee, said next year's budget looks very similar to that of 2010 and 2011.

"Crime is not going down any in the community, I'm sad to say," he said. "So it looks like they're doing more with the same amount of money ... I hope they can keep that up and keep fine tuning the operation."

Strickland said each of the office's six division commanders creates a budget for their department.

Together, he said the sheriff's office receives about $30 million.

He expects $15 million of that to come for the jail division, $8 million for patrol, $1.6 million for operations, $2.1 million for investigations, $968,000 for the Multi Agency Narcotics Squad and $1.7 million for court services.

Of all the expenses, Strickland said 80 percent are for salaries and benefits, 11 percent for services such as building maintenance, 8 percent for operating supplies, 0.27 percent for travel and academy charges, and the remaining less then 1 percent for miscellaneous expenditures.

With this much money floating around, Wilheit said he's glad to see the sheriff's office bringing in outside help.

"I'm absolutely for (the oversight committee)," he said. "Our government, particularly an operation like the sheriff's office, is really a business. They have every aspect a business has with overhead and employee salaries. I think if you can involve business people in the community to bring their experience into it, the only thing to come out of that would be good."



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