County budget talks erupted into a county budget battle at an impromptu news conference called by Sheriff Richard Wiles Thursday afternoon.
Sheriff Wiles and County Commissioner Dan Haggerty are both arguing they want what’s best for the taxpayer, but what needs to happen is where they disagree.
“Everyone else in the courthouse is taking furloughs, and reductions in pay, and for these guys to think that they can just stand there and say, ‘Not us,’ that’s not right,” Haggerty said.
The comments come at a time when the county is facing a $15 million budget deficit. Commissioners want each county department to slash its budget 5 percent in the coming year. Haggerty suggested deputies could be laid off to find the Sheriff”s Office’s 5 percent savings.
“I think the statements from Commissioner Haggerty were irresponsible and reckless,” Wiles said. “I’ve got people every time I turn around asking if they’re gonna have a job next budget year.”
Wiles insists cutting jobs is not the solution in cutting the budget. At an impromptu news conference on Thursday, he argued that since he has taken office, he has increased revenues by millions, and he said that is not being taken into account.
The sheriff said he trimmed costs by eliminating staff positions, limiting overtime for jail employees and applying for grants. He also said he has increased the average number of federal prisoners by hundreds, a move, he said, adds up to an extra $5 million dollars a year for the county.
“With these cuts, we wouldn’t be able to provide law enforcement services at all,” Wiles said. “I mean you’re talking in total 90 people, cutting it by 65? That would be a tremendous hit.”
It’s ultimately up to the Sheriff’s Officers’ Association to negotiate with the county. The group’s president said the two groups have only had one meeting, but he said it seems unlikely that the county will budge.