County transfers nearly $1.4 million from Sheriff's Office budget to general fund

KDBC
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 6:28pm

The Dona Ana County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the transfer of almost $1.4 million dollars in unused money from the Sheriff's Office to the general fund Tuesday morning.

The money was originally intended for 25 positions the department has been unable to fill due to a lack of applicant meeting the requirements to be a law enforcement officer.

"We have recruited from every agency, the military and we're going out everywhere but this is a problem that's across the state and across the country," said Dona Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison.

Due to the the low probability the department would fill the vacancies before the end of the fiscal year June 30th, County Manager Julia Brown said the money could serve other purposes rather than go unused.

Brown met with Garrison Tuesday morning and both mutually agreed to take back the unused money for the fiscal year in hopes of using it to fill other needs.

"In the case of the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office it might be a radio communications system for their vehicles or it might be new vehicles," Brown said of how the fund may be used.

With an understaffed department covering more than 3800 square miles, some felt the funds should remain available or rural areas could be negatively impacted.

"The safety and well-being of our citizens is number one," said Dona Ana County resident Charles Wendler.

Brown and Garrison said with safety being a concern, the cadet academy will not be affected by the transfer of funds and the graduating class will be hired with money from the new budget.

Garrison said the training of the new deputies would take approximately 22 to 26 weeks and would wrap up after July 1st when the new budget goes into effect.

But if a qualified applicant who is ready to work without training applies, Brown said she would find a way to hire that person.

"I will make the money available for that," she said.

Brown added the county needs to look at historically vacant positions throughout all departments and has set a hiring freeze for those jobs.

She will be looking at those hires on a case by case basis as to whether or not that is a critical position for the department and asking the department to explain and justify why it's important to fill the position immediately.

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