SHERIFF GARCIA ASKS FOR ‘FLAT BUDGET’ TO ‘HOLD THE LINE ON SPENDING AND CRIME’
HOUSTON – Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia today proposed a zero-growth budget for the Sheriff’s Office for the fiscal year starting March 1.
“My budget will hold the line on spending and hold the line on crime,” the sheriff said at the annual county government staff hearing on the budget for the Sheriff’s Office.
With almost 4,000 employees, Sheriff Garcia leads an agency that operates the nation’s third largest jail system and patrols the unincorporated area of the county, where about 1.5 million people live. The population of that area is expected to equal the population of the city of Houston by 2018.
The Sheriff’s Office budget for the current fiscal year is almost $398 million. Sheriff Garcia is seeking the same amount, in addition to reimbursement for the $9 million extra in employee benefits that the county has assigned to the Sheriff’s Office.
The proposal is a sharp departure from past years at the Sheriff’s Office. The budget granted by Commissioners Court grew by $79 million in the three years before Sheriff Garcia took office and $26 million in the three years since.
But starting two years ago, the amount actually spent by the Sheriff’s Office started decreasing year to year – for the first time in decades. Sheriff Garcia credits the change mostly to a business-like approach to controlling costs that has saved taxpayers about $15 million during a time of reduced tax revenues for the entire county government network.
His budget proposal saves money by replacing overtime pay for veteran deputies on the jail staff with much less expensive straight time for civilian detention officers. (State law dictates jail staffing levels). In the process, it allows for the redeployment of 97 deputies to front-line crime-fighting duties.
Since a countywide hiring freeze was imposed by Commissioners Court in October 2009, the Sheriff’s Office has been unable to replace hundreds of deputies and civilian workers who retired, resigned or were dismissed.
Sheriff Garcia also reacted to the county budget office’s internal consideration of a $392.5 million budget for the Sheriff’s Office without any reimbursement for the extra $9 million in employee benefits. The total budget cut compared to this year would be almost $15 million.
“My budget will help me keep the citizens of Harris County safe,” Sheriff Garcia said at the hearing. “Your $15 million cut will make the citizens of Harris County less safe.”
The five elected members of Harris County Commissioners Court will make decisions soon on the budget for all county operations, which together spend more than $1.2 billion a year.
Video of Sheriff Garcia’s introduction and conclusion at the hearing is at: