Fresno Sheriff's Department Facing Budget Cuts

June 17, 2009 8:55:54 PM PDT
Fresno County supervisors are looking at taking some drastic measures to balance their budget for the next fiscal year. And since the sheriff's department accounts for more than half of the county's general fund, supervisors are getting tough with Sheriff Margaret Mims. Fresno County supervisors spent four hours Wednesday morning going through Sheriff Margaret Mims budget proposal. Line by line supervisors questioned her expenditures. There's a three and a half million dollar difference between what the sheriff says she needs and what the county says she can have.

Fresno County Supervisor Susan Anderson said, "There are some changes that she could make; reducing the number of training hours, reducing the dependency on using overtime by using extra help employees that would help us to reduce our costs so that we wouldn't have to do that."

Sheriff Mims says her department hasn't hired anyone in a year and a half. Now she's looking at laying people off.

Mims said, "The county general plan calls for two deputies per thousand residents. We're at 1.3 per thousand. And we lost 78 positions last year. And depending on the budget that's approved this week, we may lose more. So we're going backwards."

In addition, the sheriff's department may have to shut down substations, cease 24 hour patrols in some rural sections of the county and close down one or more floors of the jail -which could mean the early release of several hundred inmates.

Sheriff Mims said, "I don't want to release any inmates. We're looking at some electronic monitoring and if we do lose a floor ... try to scatter those inmates out through other facilities."

Supervisor Anderson, "Would you be okay with closing down one floor of the jail? We may have to do that. It may come to the point where we cannot afford to keep all of the beds open that we have now."

Supervisor Anderson is direct - even when it comes to layoffs. She says, "Fire a few people ... cut here ... cut there ... we're gonna have to trim ... it's not the same budget that it used to be."

Sheriff Mims will know by weeks end how much money she has to work with and how many people will be working with her.

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