Cuts have been tough, Sheriff says
Because of a petition filed last year by Summit County residents opposing tax increases, the county has had to tighten its belt in many ways. The Sheriff’s Office is one of the departments that has suffered with the budget cuts.
According to the county’s numbers, the Sheriff’s Office’s budget was cut by about $250,000. However, Sheriff Dave Edmunds said the number fails to communicate the true effect of the cuts.
"It’s more than $250,000 it’s more like $500,000 if you go back five years," Edmunds said. "Including just personnel, the cuts have been more than $500,000. With equipment and other cuts, it’s been more like $1 million over the last few years."
Edmunds said he is operating with five fewer deputies than he was five years ago. For him, that is a major reduction in his force, as he said personnel "drives everything." Other services have been cut as well, including the inmate worker program that he initiated in 2002.
"We’ve seen deputies having to do more with less. We’ve seen that we’ve had to re-evaluate my traffic division and absorb those positions back into patrol," Edmunds said. "We need the traffic division back that’s the primary complaint we get on our roads."
Summit County Manager Bob Jasper said the county is doing all it can to make sure the Sheriff’s Office can get what help it can to operate more efficiently.
"I’ve asked the Sheriff for his priorities, so we’ll do some of that," Jasper said. "We still have to spend [county funds] as efficiently as we possibly can. Mostly, I intend to roll [the funds] into next year’s process we’re already in the process of looking at next year’s budget."
"We’ve had to re-evaluate everything that we do. I think they’ve cut too deep," Edmunds said. "Public safety is at the top of government. That’s the very essence of government. That’s not the budget that should see reductions."
He said his office has been busy with criminal investigations, court security and running the jails. Edmunds said he has not been able to focus on what he calls "quality of life" issues. He said the Sheriff’s Office’s service to the community has "diminished."
"We’re starting to lose people. In 11 years as sheriff, I’ve only lost a handful of people to other police agencies," Edmunds said. "In the last few years, I’ve lost more police officers than I have in the previous 10 years combined."
Edmunds said his officers have also gone "far too long" without salary increases. He said other governments around the state have prioritized their budgets much better than Summit County has.
"Something’s got to give. If they don’t start restoring money back to my budget, services are going to be diminished and we’re going to continue losing good people," Edmunds said.
Jasper realized the dire straits the Sheriff’s Office is in but said he does not want to make any hasty decisions.
"We want to make sure we don’t just rush and spend money," Jasper said. "We want to make sure we’re effective and efficient in how we spend it."
Though Edmunds laments the cuts that have been made to his office’s budget, he is confident in the Summit County Council going forward. The County Council is responsible for crafting the budgets of departments such as the Sheriff’s Office.
"I’m cautiously optimistic that the County Council is going to do the right thing," Edmunds said. "It’s the fundamental reason government was formed in the first place to make sure society is functional and to ensure public safety."
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