Vail Daily letter: Sheriff’s Office scales down
Vail, CO, Colorado
I have been aware for many months that the analysis of the county financial state conducted by the Eagle County Finance Department showed, to no one’s surprise, that the recession has had a big and continued negative impact on all county budgets
However, no matter what the economy does, crime and public safety do not take a time out from the recession. People will still make bad intentional and unintentional decisions with unfortunate and sometimes tragic consequences. Predators will still try to lure children into dangerous chat rooms, drug dealers will still try to make a quick buck, con artists will continue to scam, and judges will still sentence criminals to jail.
While these challenges to law enforcement will not go away, some of our funding used for personnel, equipment and training will.
Tough financial decisions have to be made. That’s a given in today’s new economic landscape. Our mission now is to provide the very best level of professionalism and service with the resources provided.
I joined the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office over 20 years ago, and now serving as your sheriff for the past eight years, I have come to understand (although it took some time) and appreciate what a complex business enterprise the Sheriff’s Office has developed into.
When it became clear that the downturn in the economy was going to change the way all local governments do business, I reached out to four private-sector business executives who in their professional lives have had to cut budgets, retask assets and help staff manage more efficiently with less financial resources.
Together with our command team and input from members of our organization, this group of corporate experts has worked through many lengthy meetings and many different types of correspondence in a selfless effort to help us bring a new business operations vision to the organization.
Last Monday, at a scheduled public meeting, I made our 2011 budget presentation to the Board of County Commissioners, who by state statue are responsible for funding of the Sheriff’s Office and Justice Center (including our detentions facility) budgets.
While the commissioners are the ones who set the funding levels for these budgets, as an elected official it is my responsibility to determine how those funds are used to adequately meet the needs of our organization.
In the spring of this year, we were notified by the county that we would need to cut our budget by $2 million.
We have achieved that goal. However, this task has not been easy, and in many cases it was painful, but it needed to be done. This fiscal reality drove us to look at every line item, every program and every staffing position in an effort to determine what was absolutely necessary to provide a professional and acceptable level of service to the community.
We have reduced the overall staffing of the organization to below 2005 levels. We will reduce the number of vehicles within the organization and lengthen the replacement cycles of those remaining vehicles.
We have found that due to the recession and the lowering levels of Eagle County residents, our inmate population is lower than originally projected and we will be able to reduce staff and expenses proportionally. We have also developed a list of programs that ultimately may have to be scaled back or eliminated.
While I believe all of these programs are valuable, I asked the command team, along with several long-time residents, to evaluate and prioritize each program.
We cannot lose sight that the highest and best use of our resources is to maintain countywide patrol presence from El Jebel to Red Cliff to the top of Vail Pass.
During this difficult budget planning process, I’ve been heartened by both the commitment and creativity of everyone within the Sheriff’s Office. Not a conversation goes by where I don’t see a real willingness for sacrifice and a passion to keep our service levels as high as possible.
As for the future, I see greater complexity in every aspect of law enforcement, along with more challenges to our staff due to our limited resources.
Through all of this, I still foresee a strong relationship with the community, and the community can see us as a trusted partner they can turn to in times of need. I see professionalism, care and responsibility at the core of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
I know the community sees an organization that cares to its core, as well. In the next few weeks, you will learn more abut our budget and operations plans for 2011 which, I’m confident, will be prudent, well thought out and achievable.
Eagle County sheriff