Sheriff’s budget


Washington, along with other county department heads and constitutional officers, submitted his budget to County Administrator Steve Nichols, who in turn hashed them out and rolled them all into one large and meticulously planned county budget.  That proposed county budget, and the suggested tax rate to support it, went before the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 5.

After the schools, debt service, and funding for the capital improvements plan, the sheriff’s department has the largest budget, followed closely by the department of social services.  But appearances can be deceiving, Washington said.

“There’s a perception that the sheriff has a huge budget,” Washington explained, “but so much is tied up in benefits, people, and fixed costs.  There’s not a lot to actually work with.”

Of the $2.3 million Washington requested for FY15, 87 percent is tied up in salaries, benefits, and other personnel costs, leaving only 13 percent for true operating costs.  And while 13 percent may still seem like an ample margin, most of that is earmarked as well.  Costs like vehicle insurance, vehicle fuel, and dues charged by the training academy are fixed expenses that the sheriff can do little, or nothing, to control.

After all those costs are accounted for, only one category, called “other,” remains.  In this category the sheriff can exercise some genuine fiscal decision-making.  Consisting of things like postage, batteries, supplies, and other miscellaneous items necessary for running the office, the category “other” contained $63,239 in FY13.  That’s only 2.7 percent of the sheriff’s overall FY13 budget.

What’s more, 45 to 50 percent of the cost of the sheriff’s budget is reimbursed to the county by the state.  So while the county has to pay it all up front, it then receives almost half of its money back into the general fund.  The overall burden to county taxpayers, therefore, is just over half of what the sheriff requests.

At any one time, two or three deputies cover all of Fluvanna County.  That number, however, can quickly dwindle.  Sometimes deputies are out sick; other times deputies make arrests that pull them off the streets for hours at a time.  When that happens, coverage of the entire county can suddenly depend upon one lone deputy on patrol.


“My goal is to enhance the number of people on the shift so that there is better coverage within the county,” Washington explained.  “That way, officers can be in their geographic sectors without being pulled away to other ones, and can provide a timely response.”  With that in mind, he asked for three additional deputies on top of his baseline budget request.  Nichols’s proposed budget, however, does not include the extra personnel.  The final decision on whether he will receive them rests with the Board.

For reference, Washington compared his budget to sheriff’s budgets in three nearby counties that also provide the same statutory services that his office provides.  In Louisa County, the sheriff’s budget was $4.4 million in FY13.  Though Louisa is larger in geographic area and population, Washington explained that it nonetheless directly impacts his office’s demand for services “because of things that happen there on the northern corridor.”

But Goochland County is similar to Fluvanna in geographic size and has slightly less population, yet still spent $3.1 million on its sheriff’s budget in FY13.  Washington also compared his FY13 budget of $2.3 million with the budget in Powhatan County, which spent $4 million in FY13.  “Powhatan is similar in geographic area and in population, so it’s a good comparison,” Washington remarked.

“Does [the comparatively low budget] put a lot of pressure on me as the boss?” Washington asked.  “Yes, it does, because I am constantly stressing my staff to the max.  It creates a morale problem.  They’re tired all the time; they don’t get to spend time with their families.  They’re constantly having to come in on holidays, or cover for someone who’s sick or on vacation, or in training, or on dual court duty.”

Washington is proud of the staff he already has.  Twenty-five percent of his staff has post-secondary education.  And 56 percent fall into minority status, with 26 percent of the staff identifying as African American.  Of his 28 sworn officers, 10 are female, and four either read or speak Spanish.  “That’s good for an agency our size,” Washington declared.  “Our community is diverse, so as an agency, we should balance and represent the diversity of our community.  I believe we have done an extraordinary job of doing that.”

But the key is retention.  “We need to retain those numbers and those individuals,” Washington cautioned.  “We still have a long way to go in bringing the retention percentage up.  A lot of that is done through incentive programs.  We have a master deputy program for career officers who may not want to be supervisors.  We need other initiatives and funding programs in place to stay competitive.”

Salary comes into play with staff retention.  “Some of the officers leave because they make more money elsewhere,” Washington explained.  But another issue is career advancement.  “Others want to move up the ranks, but there isn’t much chance for that.  A young workforce can be challenging, because those are the individuals who are really looking to enhance themselves.  It’s hard to hold onto those individuals.”

Of course, building a county budget brings many factors into play.  Every department, not just the sheriff’s department, needs money.  And supervisors have to take care when setting the tax rate.  If they price it too high, they risk burdening residents.  Just as important, supervisors need to keep in mind both the tax rates and overall tax burden to homeowners in surrounding counties.  If Fluvanna compares poorly, it becomes less competitive to prospective businesses and less desirable to would-be homebuyers.

Washington understands those issues.  “But public safety is a core service that does require a high priority in order for a community to be secure and safe,” he noted, “and for a community to thrive.  Businesses won’t come to a place with high crime, especially violent crime.  And the school system is affected by crime, as well.  People want a safe environment for their children to be educated in.  Law enforcement affects all the things we do to make the community thriving and viable.”

Related Posts

dewi88 cuanslot dragon77 cuan138 enterslots rajacuan megahoki88 ajaib88 warung168 fit188 pusatwin pusatwin slot tambang88 mahkota88 slot99 emas138