Sheriff’s Office Funding Shortfalls

The Daily Courier ran two articles last week regarding the dire staffing issues at the Sheriff’s Office due to funding issues. As I read these articles, there are some things that jump out and catch my attention, and I feel we should be talking about them.

In the January 5th article Sheriff Daniel states that he is down eight corrections deputies, two patrol positions and one marijuana team member. The article leads us to believe that the shortages are due to funding.  He states he doesn’t want to hire new deputies only to let them go if funding doesn’t materialize.

I feel it is important to point out we have had a jail levy for five years now and just renewed it for an additional five years.  That levy was intended to pay the salaries of the eight vacant corrections positions; so what funding is the Sheriff waiting to materialize? The marijuana Deputy is funded by a state grant, so again, what funds is he waiting for? As I see it, funding is already there for 9 of the 11 vacant positions.

The second concern is that the article states Daniel has said he built up the patrol division, which was decimated by budget cuts in 2012, to show the public what his department could do.

What kind of manager spends more money than they have in order to show people what they could do if they had more money than they have? This is a prime example of fiscal mismanagement and irresponsible spending.

The article also states that Sheriff Daniel “has been looking at various possible revenue streams, including a taxing district, a seasonal sales tax or a payroll tax.”

The article wraps up with the statement that Daniel expects to secure some funding from the $25 million pool created by the Oregon Legislature to fight illegal marijuana to which Daniel responded, “The Legislature has given me all this money, where am I going to get them?”

This first article was followed up two days later with an article discussing what the Board of Commissioners is considering in order to cover this shortfall in funding. Some of those options discussed included using $1.7 million in pandemic relief, leaving vacant positions unfilled and borrowing $1 million.

According to the Daily Courier, Sheriff Daniel said he might ask the Commissioners to put a funding measure on the November ballot as a way to provide a permanent solution to the longstanding funding issues. He is also quoted as saying “I’m not interested in going after property taxes unless I have to. I want something where everybody pays.”

What nobody is saying here is that once the voters approved the Jail levy five years ago, Sheriff Daniel felt he could go on a spending spree with the remaining Sheriff’s reserve funds and then when those became depleted, simply tax us for more money.

Good fiscal responsibility means that you do not spend money you do not have. If you do not have the funds to bring the patrol level up to the 30 positions, then you don’t do it. The Sheriff did it and now expects us to pay the price for his irresponsible spending.

In the Daily Courier article Commissioner Fowler is quoted as saying “Although I think you’ve done a great job, Sheriff, of bringing patrol to the maximum point that you can, that’s still not what the people asked for.”

Lately I have been asking myself, “When will the Commissioners and the Sheriff listen to what we ask for? How many measures and ordinances have been proposed after we have already voted no, and how many new taxes will they throw at us before we throw our hands up in the air and say enough is enough?”

According to the Josephine County Finance Director, Sandy Novak, the looming shortfall will be $4.3 million, up from the $4 million previously announced by Daniel.

Novak has suggested that the Sheriff’s Office be cut by about 10 positions, saving about $1 million.

Commissioner DeYoung has taken the matter so seriously that he is quoted in the same article as stating “I am going to keep buying lottery tickets.” He is also quoted as saying “As long as I’m here, I am not going to let you (Daniel) go backwards, whether it’s good fiscal policy or not.”

As many of you know, I am running for Josephine County Sheriff with an election coming up in November of this year. It is time that we take control of the fiscal management of the Sheriff’s Office and stop spending money we do not have.

By spending all the reserves that the Sheriff’s Office had, we now find ourselves in a worse position than we were in when Dave was elected. Yes, Sheriff Gilbertson had to lay off most of the Sheriff’s Office when the funding dried up in 2012, but he was wise enough not to spend the reserves and avoid the situation we now find ourselves in.

Jonathan L. Knapp For Josephine County Sheriff