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Budget fight continues

Sheriff says commissioners could have used better communication

Paul Shockley

Both sides of a brewing feud between Moffat County commissioners and the sheriff’s department say they agree on the need to cut next year’s budget.

Getting each side talking to one another would be a nice start, Moffat’s elected leaders suggest.

“This is very poor planning,” Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said earlier this week.

The sheriff’s department and all other county services have the next two weeks to reach some understanding with commissioners, as the county scrambles to implement across-the-board, three-percent cuts in next year’s budget while the state deadlines loom.

New costs not limited to unanticipated medical bills that commissioners insist weren’t realized until mid-September have the county staring at a $500,000 budget deficit.

If budgets are not adopted by a Dec. 15 deadline for county commissioners to certify mill levys, then 90 percent of dollars appropriated in the current fiscal year are “re-appropriated” for the next fiscal year, according to Colorado law.

All budget issues will be on the table at a workshop planned for Dec. 6, which is open to the public, said Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos.

Meanwhile, in a Sept. 11 meeting with commissioners, Grinstead said both sides agreed on a preliminary set of cuts for his department.

Irking the sheriff was a memo dated Nov. 19 from the county’s administrative services director, outlining the need for the additional cuts.

The sheriff, who said he first saw the memo Nov. 21, said he had the next day to hammer out the additional requested cuts.

“First of all, I want you to know how highly disappointed we are about the lack of communication and proper notice you have given us to make these budget cuts,” Grinstead wrote in a letter dated Nov. 22 addressed to Debra Murray, the administrative services director.

“We’re dealing with public safety issues, the safety of my officers and the safety of inmates,” the sheriff said Tuesday.

Raftopoulos, meanwhile, suggested the three-percent cut is not set in stone.

“We made a request,” the commissioner said.

“If they can’t do it, then we can work something out.”

Still, the commissioner said communication might have been handled better.

“All Buddy had to do is call us up,” Raftopoulos said. “But if Buddy or any other department head feels it was not done properly, then we’ll take responsibility for that. The idea is to work as a team in order to make these cuts to budget.”

Despite the rankling, Grinstead said he has already outlined roughly $33,800 to be slashed from the sheriff’s budget a large portion of which was earmarked to buy a vehicle for use by a sergeant. Another possible line item cut includes wages for deputies who also opt to fight fires, while some $2,495 will be cut off Emergency Manager Clyde Anderson’s operating budget; leaving $19,505 toward the purchase of a new vehicle for Anderson.

Toward another requested cut of $36,091 against the Moffat County Jail, the sheriff said such monies could be found in a utilities line-item with the jail.

To offset that loss, the sheriff said he’s requesting an identical sum to be transferred from the county’s capital fund line item; at least $500,00 of which remain from the construction of the Public Safety Center.

“Maintaining capital projects” is listed among expenditures with the taxpayer-funded safety center, according to language in the 1997 ballot question.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 to at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.


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