$80K added to sheriff budget | SteamboatToday.com

$80K added to sheriff budget

Commissioners approve supplemental funds at Wall's request

Brandon Gee

— The Routt County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an $80,000 supplemental budget for the Routt County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, bringing an end – for now, at least – to a contentious dispute between the board and Sheriff Gary Wall.

Tuesday’s hearing on the supplemental budget was quick and quiet. It was a distinct contrast from the grandstanding and arguing that marked previous hearings on the Sheriff’s Office’s projected overages. Routt County accountants originally projected those overages to be about $300,000. Wall’s staff later submitted their own projections, which showed an overage of only about $100,000. Wall, however, refused to commit to any number because of the unpredictable nature of law enforcement. After Tuesday’s hearing, Wall said he could not say whether the supplemental appropriation would be adequate.

“We have two more months,” he said. “We are not sure what’s going to happen in two months but appreciate all the considerations.”

The total 2008 Sheriff’s Office budget was $4.3 million. The commissioners said they chose the supplemental amount based on information submitted by Wall and his staff and what they believed were justifiable, unforeseen expenses in 2008. In an Oct. 30 letter to Wall, the commissioners wrote that they may take drastic steps, should Wall go on to exceed his supplemental 2008 appropriation.

“If it appears that you will exceed the budgeted amounts, we will consider taking further action including, without limitation, instructing the Accounting Department to not process vouchers, prohibiting overtime and restricting the use of county vehicles,” the letter states.

Wall would not comment Tuesday about that portion of the letter.

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With an eye to the bright side, Wall said the budget controversy was a good practice for the Sheriff’s Office. Wall said he will be revising the department’s budget to add more line items, among other things. Wall has said the budget, as currently organized, did not allow him to provide overage explanations with the high level of specificity requested by the commissioners.

Former Undersheriff Dan Taylor, however, disagrees and said he is tired of Wall blaming his budget problems on the prior administration.

“I used to know to the penny where we were with the budget every month,” Taylor said. “We knew where we were at, literally. I think I could have done it weekly.

“If Gary had an issue with (the budget), he should have changed it,” Taylor continued. “He’s had 22 months. : It’s time for Gary to stand up and take responsibility for his own actions and his own office.”

Wall said the problem only came to light with this year’s projected overages. He also said his claim that “we inherited this” was in reference to accounting processes and was not meant as an attack on Taylor or former Sheriff John Warner.

“I never thought it was a problem before, and that’s why I didn’t change anything,” Wall said last week. “We are changing the system now that a problem has come up.”