Budget increase possible for Garfield County Sheriff’s Office | AspenTimes.com

Budget increase possible for Garfield County Sheriff’s Office

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario is planning to spend more than $19 million in 2011, well over a third of the county’s proposed $53 million operating budget.

The sheriff’s budget, which covers the largest staff of any department in the county, reflects an increase of roughly 5.5 percent over the amount budgeted for the department for 2010.

The 2011 budget, according to documents provided by the county, calls for a little more than $1.5 million in revenues.

Expenditures in 2011 are projected at a little less than $19.2 million, or about $1 million more than the department’s 2010 budget of $18.2 million.

According to county documents, the amount Vallario currently is projected to actually spend this year is $16.6 million, for a savings of an estimated $1.6 million from the original budgeted amount.

Thanks to those savings, his budget request for 2011 is 15 percent more than what he truly will have spent by the end of 2010.

Although Vallario was not available for comment on this story, last March he told the Garfield County commissioners that similar savings in 2009 were accomplished by using in-house trainers instead of sending deputies to outside training facilities; “fine-tuning” purchase arrangements for inmate meals at the county jail; and doing the same for the purchase of new equipment.

Vallario noted at the time that he was able to avoid layoffs or furloughs while keeping his departmental costs down, and that his department heads relied on flexible scheduling “to keep overtime hours at a minimum” and on leaving some positions vacant.

With 151 people in his department next year – the largest in the county – the sheriff estimates that he will spend more than $8.8 million on wages alone, with an additional $4.1 million in employee benefits.

That compares to $7.9 million in wages budgeted for 2010, with another $3.5 million in benefits.

The increase, according to the department’s budget officer, Cathy Redman, is largely due to what are called “performance increases” in employees’ salaries.

Such raises typically follow a positive performance review, she said, and must be accounted for in every year’s budget whether they actually are awarded or not.

The result, Redman continued, is reflected in significant annual wage hikes in the budgets of practically every county department.

Aside from the variations in wages and benefits, the sheriff has called for a slight decrease in overtime pay, from more than $600,000 budgeted for 2010 to approximately $590,000 for 2011.

In general, Redman said Vallario’s proposed budget means he “actually decreased his operating expenses.”

She said that the department’s overall operating expenses – essentially all expenses not lumped with wages, benefits or other employee-related costs – were budgeted at slightly more than $7.2 million for 2010.

For 2011, she said, the same expenses are estimated to be slightly more than $6.6 million, a decrease of roughly $600,000.

Vallario also is not asking for any new positions or new equipment in 2011, beyond the normal replacement of worn-out vehicles and weapons, Redman said.

In other parts of his budget, the sheriff:

• has kept projected spending at the same level, $37,500, for the coming year as was budgeted for 2010.

• calls for slightly higher spending for the jail in 2011, from $7.6 million budgeted in 2010 to nearly $8.5 million next year, much of which is increases in wages and other employment benefits.

• and increased the patrol budget from approximately $3.7 million for 2010 to nearly $4 million for 2011. Again, a large part of the increase falls under the line items for wages, benefits and other employment-related costs.

The final adoption of the proposed 2011 Garfield County budget is set for Dec. 13 at the commissioners’ meeting room, 108 Eighth St. in Glenwood Springs.