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August 8, 2011

Clark County budget battle continues: Sheriff’s commissary fund used to keep other county offices afloat

JEFFERSONVILLE — Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden’s budget has become the target of a $1 million cut to help bridge the budget deficit facing Clark County.

The sheriff’s department by far has the county’s largest budget — about $9.5 million combined between the jail and the sheriff’s office. But Rodden has consistently said he has little room to cut and the expenses he has incurred are outside of his control.

“I have no control over that,” he said of the money needed to run the jail.

Rodden said the jail, as of Thursday, had 483 inmates in a facility that is supposed to house 450 prisoners.

“It’s getting dangerously close to being dangerous for our employees because I don’t have enough people,” he said.

Rodden said the sheriff’s department is about 20 officers short of the standard the county should employ.

“It’s not like I’m doing stuff that I’m just having fun,” he said. “I’m obligated by the law to care for the inmates. I have to provide a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet for them and I have to keep the place clean. That costs money for cleaning supplies [and] the inmates do all the work.”

Sheriff’s deficit

There is a $1.5 million general fund deficit for the department, according to Rodden’s budget figures. Rodden said he has $496,620 to pay deputies salaries in the general fund, but he needs $808,000 to carry the office through the rest of the year. There is a larger gulf in the salaries needed for the jail.

The operations for the Michael L. Becher Adult Corrections Complex are being paid for out of Local Option Income Tax funds — designated for public safety purposes — but salaries are included in the general fund. At the beginning of the month, the sheriff had $226,768 to pay salaries for the rest of the year, but he needs $1.4 million, leaving a deficit of $1.2 million.

While the Clark County Council has asked Rodden to cut $1 million out of the general fund to help the county fund operations for the rest of the year, he said he was promised the cuts the council were going to request would not affect salaries.

The council has said — and has provided the News and Tribune with a copy of — the approved budgets with cuts that were given to the county office-holders in March. Rodden’s initials appear next to an approved budget of $2.1 million in the notice, which referred to the police portion of his budget only. The jail’s operations were planned to be covered out of the county’s portion of the Local Option Income Tax distribution.

Despite the acknowledgment that cuts were coming, Rodden said the information he was getting from the council was inconsistent.

“They told me I needed to cut $100,000, so I laid off three employees,” he said, referring to a request made earlier in the year. “I thought that was what I had to cut. Now, they come back and say I’ve got to cut $1 million. How do you do that with this facility?”

As for being informed that Rodden would need to cut $1 million out of his budget, he said that did not become apparent until June.

“Every report we got from the auditor’s office said we had the money,” he said.

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