VIRGINIA CITY – After much discussion the Madison County Commissioners approved the final budgets for the county for the 2012-13 fiscal year at their regular meeting in Virginia City on Tuesday.
Commissioner Jim Hart described the preliminary budget hearings as a fairly straightforward process overall, with little change between departmental budgets from recent years.
“We had good discussions with each of the departments, every one of them,” Hart said.
The total budget for the fiscal year 2012-13 is $30,380,615 down from the 2011-12 budget of $31,886,401.
In recent years the budget for the Madison County Sheriff’s Department has increased, receiving scrutiny from some members of the community while others wonder if the department’s limited resources are enough to keep citizens safe. Hart explained that while different sides of a budget negotiation may not always see eye to eye, he’s comfortable making tough decisions that must be made in order to give county departments what they need, and it’s no different with the sheriff’s department.
“That’s the case in law enforcement, that’s the case with fire protection or whatever kind of public service entity,” said Hart. “You never really have enough people.”
The county sheriff’s department’s overall budget decreased by one percent from fiscal year 2011-12 to 2012-13, dropping from $1,628,403 last year to $1,615,857, and the department spent 92 percent of their 2011-12 budget.
“He’s worked pretty hard with us to try to make sure it didn’t expand too much,” Hart said of county sheriff Dave Schenk. “We’ve been working pretty closely trying to figure out how we can have enough officers to cover, and also how to and where to put someone who needs to be in jail for longer than 72 hours.”
Commissioner Dave Schulz further explained the difficult task the sheriff’s office faces in covering what they can with a limited number of staff, often having to utilize dispatch and detention officers to fill multiple roles.
“We have to keep somebody either on staff or available pretty much 24/7,” he said. “Unfortunately, that means we may not have anybody in jail, but we have to be prepared under the pretense that we could have.”
When asked why it’s important for county government to operate openly and within a budget, Hart is reminded that the county commissioners are responsible for overseeing every county employee, regardless which department they work in.
“Transparency is important so that folks in Madison County understand that their money is being spent wisely,” he replied. “ And we are not growing our government in my opinion without careful consideration of that need.”