Members of the Davis County Sheriff's Department turned out in force Tuesday night to protest cuts in their department in next year's budget, but the county commissioners appeared unmoved.
The 1991 budget adds 34 positions to the department's jail division to staff the new county justice complex but deletes 15 jobs from other divisions.The budget was approved at the Wednesday morning commission meeting. State law requires the county have a budget in place and approved by Dec. 12.
More than 60 people, about half of them from the sheriff's department, attended the Wednesday evening hearing, which ran 11/2 hours.
Commission Chairman Gayle Stevenson said that to keep from raising the property tax rate, more than $3 million was cut from spending requests submitted by the various county departments.
"These were legitimate requests. They weren't inflated," Stevenson said. Other departments are also suffering cuts, Stevenson said, including no new equipment purchases and frozen salary levels.
Stevenson pointed out the sheriff's department is gaining employees, not losing them, but the new people are being put into the corrections division in what he called a restructuring.
"The message we're hearing from the public is that on taxes, we should hold the line," said Stevenson, and fellow Commissioners Dub Lawrence and Robert Rose agreed.
"The perception we have is the public wants no increase in taxes and is willing to take some reduction in services," Stevenson said.
The total general fund spending for the county is projected to increase from $11.9 million for this year to $12.5 million for 1991, an increase of about $650,000.
County budget analyst LaMar Holt estimated the property tax on a home valued at $70,000 will be about $715 in 1991 if the other taxing entities in the county keep their levies at the same level as last year.
He also pointed out the county's allocation of that is $165, or 23 percent, with the school district taking the lion's share of $396, or 55 percent.
The non-jail portion of the sheriff's department budget - for patrol, paramedic services, warrant service and court bailiffs - is being cut from $2.48 million to $1.89 million. The jail operations budget is being increased from $1.54 million to $2.65 million.
Ten additional corrections officers have already been hired as the department contemplates opening the new 400-bed facility next spring, and the budget calls for hiring 34 additional officers.
Most public comments at the hearing came from members of the sheriff's department and were critical of the personnel cuts. Although no personnel cuts are contemplated in the patrol or paramedic divisions, the time of those deputies will be stretched thinner as they assume part of the workload created by the cuts in other divisions, deputies told the commissioners.
Residents of West Point and Fruit Heights, which contract with the department for law enforcement service, also criticized the cuts. They said they prefer a tax increase to a reduction in services.
Detective Ted Ellefsen was one of the toughest critics, calling the cuts poor judgment in light of the $258,000 the commissioners approved on Monday for construction of two exhibit buildings at the county fairgrounds.
"I'm surprised," Ellefsen said. "This $250,000 would go a long way to take care of the problems in the 1991 budget."
Deputy Kevin McCloud, president of the county employees association, said county workers are discouraged by the cutbacks. The cuts will cause other county employees to fear for their jobs and start looking for other jobs, he predicted.
Services being reduced in the budget "are very specific and seem to be aimed at one group: law enforcement," McCloud said, adding, "And we need more, not less, of that in the county."
Lt. Kenny Payne, who will become sheriff-elect Glen Clary's chief deputy when Clary takes office in January, said the cuts will heavily affect court bailiff and other justice services.
"You're impacting the lives, welfare and careers of a whole lot of people," Payne said.
The expectation that department employees laid off from one division can transfer to corrections is not correct, Payne said.
"You can't just switch patrol deputies or paramedics to jailers. They didn't sign on for that, they're not qualified for it, and they aren't certified to do it," said Payne, explaining that patrol and corrections officers attend different state training academies and have different state certification standards.
Lawrence, a former county sheriff, defended the budget, saying it will bring about restructuring in the department that is inevitable as the county grows.
The county raised taxes the past three years but is holding the line in 1991, Lawrence said, and all departments of county government are shouldering the burden.
"I'm proud of the work the county budget committee did and pleased with the balanced budget we have, within existing revenues," said Lawrence, also giving Stevenson a rare compliment for his work on the budget.