'Accounting error' creates budget shortfall

Sheriff's department budget not short $40K

An estimated shortfall of more than $40,000 in the Moffat County Sheriff's Department budget was caused by an error in the county's accounting, Sheriff Buddy Grinstead told the Craig Daily Press Friday.

At a meeting with the Moffat County Commission Wednesday, Grinstead said he suspected some of the numbers had not been calculated correctly.

"So what you're saying is accounting is wrong?" Commissioner Darryl Steele said.

"Yes," Grinstead replied. "If you used 2002 numbers and plugged in the increase, the numbers should wash out."

"I can tell you, we have not increased our personnel," Grinstead told commissioners after they asked why the "fringe benefits" allocation would not cover this year's expenditures.

Also, the sheriff wondered why he was being quizzed about budget numbers he did not set. He reminded commissioners that he does not build the budget line item "personnel," and only has direct control over operating and maintenance and capital expenditures.

"I'm just shocked at the numbers you're throwing me today," Grinstead said at the Wednesday meeting.

Afterward, Grinstead and Undersheriff Jerry Hoberg sat down to look over the numbers and later called a meeting with the accounting department and Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos. The outcome was a finding that last year's personnel budget calculations were in error.

"Yes, it was calculated incorrectly," Raftopoulos said. "Fringe was calculated too low."

Normally, the county uses figures of 38 or 40 percent to calculate the cost of insurance and other benefits. Raftopoulos said some of the deputies' benefits had been calculated as low as 25 percent.

It leaves the sheriff's office more than $40,000 in the hole.

Fortunately, Grinstead still has a considerable reserve in his operating budget to offset the budget mistake.

"Bottom line -- it's my budget. I take responsibility just because of the position I hold," Grinstead said. "We told Marianna we'd limit our spending to $8,000 a month (November and December) and try to set aside $25,000 to offset the difference."

Grinstead said the county will chip in the remaining $16,000 to cover the accounting mistake. However, it effectively handcuffs the sheriff's spending until 2004, meaning certain provisions will not be purchased.

Grinstead said he hoped to buy tasers, less-than-lethal "stun guns" for his understaffed detention officers in the jail. But such expenditures were put on hold earlier in the year when commissioners first asked department heads to cut spending. That's why the sheriff's office, in November, still has more than $40,000 in its operating budget, Grinstead said.

Raftopoulos said she was pleased with the resolution of the problem, saying it came to a good end.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com.

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