Sheriff proposes drastic cuts to meet budget goals

Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan has proposed closing jails and substations in outlying areas, ending various programs and taking other measures to comply with a countywide mandate to slash budgets.

"Right now, we are looking at making devastating cuts," Sheahan said on Monday.

"I want the Board (of Supervisors) to be aware of the potential consequences."

Supervisor Buster Johnson, a former sheriff's deputy in Los Angeles County, said he did not have a chance to review Sheahan's three-page memo.

Supervisors Pete Byers and Tom Sockwell could not be reached for comment.

Sheahan submitted the memo, dated Friday, to the supervisors, Interim County Manager Dick Skalicky and Chief Financial Officer Duc Ma outlining how he would cut the budget for the 2001-2002 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Ma sent a memo dated March 13 in which he instructed elected officials – such as Sheahan – and department heads to cut proposed budgets by 6.5 percent to avert an expected $2.5 million deficit in the general fund.

Ma sent the memo a day after the supervisors declined to raise property or sales taxes to increase revenues, and gave the officials until noon Monday to submit their proposed budgets reflecting the cuts.

The county expects to receive about $44 million for the general fund for the current fiscal year – which has an overall budget of $148 million - and projects a similar amount for the upcoming fiscal year.

Property taxes, sales taxes, fines and fees, and other revenue sources contribute to the general fund.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office anticipates a "devastating budget cut" of $700,000, Sheahan stated in his memo.

MCSO has an overall budget of about $13 million and about 240 employees.

"There is no way we could provide 24 hour patrol to Mohave County, nor could we keep jail facilities open in Mohave Valley and Lake Havasu City," Sheahan wrote.

Both jails now house 15 to 18 inmates; all inmates would be moved to the main jail or jail annex in Kingman, which hold a combined 360 inmates.

MCSO also would close substations in Golden Valley and Golden Shores, close the Shock boot-camp-style incarceration center and withdraw from the program and eliminate the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in the schools, Sheahan wrote.

The DARE deputy, who serves 13 schools countywide, would be transferred back to the sheriff's office.

The budget cuts also call for eliminating 11 detention office positions in the jail and one assistant in the sheriff's office, positions that are currently vacant, Sheahan said.

"With these devastating budget cuts and lack of pay increase for two consecutive years, I am anticipating a mass exodus of law enforcement personnel to other agencies, which will cripple our ability to provide adequate mandated law enforcement services to the citizens of the county and increase response times," Sheahan wrote.

MCSO has seven vacancies for a certified deputy staff of 95, Sheahan said.

MCSO had a turnover rate of about 18.9 percent in 2000, according to a chart prepared by the County Office of Human Resources.

Sheahan on Jan.

10 proposed a quarter-percent sales tax to raise money to pay for raises, new vehicles and office equipment and set aside funds for other county operations.

The proposed sales tax would have raised an estimated $3.2 million a year.

However, his timing was bad, coming two days after the supervisors voted to remove a proposed quarter-cent sales tax for road improvements from the March 13 ballot.

The supervisors on Jan.

22 postponed a decision, and have not revisited a sales tax for MCSO.