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August 8, 2011

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

(Continued)

JEFFERSONVILLE — Commissary Fund

Although Rodden has said he has no room to cut his budget, the department’s spending has drawn criticism, especially during public meetings. During the Clark County Commissioners meeting July 27 — where an increase to the Cumulative Capital fund tax rate was approved — audience members complained that additional funding was not needed for operations if the sheriff was buying pigs at the 4-H fair auction. Rodden admitted he bought a hog at the auction, but the animal purchased was butchered and used to feed the inmates at the jail.

“That saved the county on food for the inmates,” he said. “I’m trying to help the 4-Hers and at the same time helping the county because I’m buying food to feed the inmates.”

The money spent to purchase the animal did not come from the sheriff’s portion of the general fund, but from his commissary fund.

“These funds aren’t tax dollars,” Rodden said. “They’re profits made from sales of things to the inmates. I feel like I do help with a lot of expenses ... out of that fund.”

According to an itemized report, from January through the end of July, the commissary fund brought in $447,002. Out of that fund, $406,167 was spent, including money dedicated to another county office to keep it afloat. In the commissary fund’s public relations line-item, the sheriff’s office spent $57,324 during the seven month period.

“Those are all the donations I make to different organizations,” Rodden said, explaining the line-item.

Nearly $18,000 of the public relations money was dedicated to the Clark County Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service office, which had its budget cut by the council and could no longer fund its operations to the end of the year.

Paul Graf, president of the 4-H Corp. Board, said in a previous article that the office did not have funding to cover its expenses beyond August. The office had made a request to the council to cover that shortfall at its July meeting, which was tabled, and another request to restore the extension office to the previous year’s budget — a request of $34,734 — was denied.

Rodden stepped in and gave the office a donation in order to keep it operational.

“Evidently, they were going to close. If they close, 4-H goes away,” Rodden said. “I think it’s very important to this community that we keep 4-H. I feel very strongly about the 4-H program and how many kids it touches, and if you don’t have the extension service you don’t have 4-H.”

Rodden explained that an ordinance and a resolution — ordinance 8-2008 and resolution 2-2008 — allows his office to use money from the commissary fund for training purposes, purchasing equipment and activities designed to reduce or prevent crime.

“My thinking is that if I can help the youth groups throughout the county — the high school teams, the Little League teams, the 4-H all those kinds of organizations — I’m helping to keep kids off the street,” he said. “Hopefully, they’re not turning to crime they’re turning to positive things.”

Although Rodden said he designated the money out of the commissary fund for a good purpose, since the $1 million cut was requested of his office he said he would revisit the policy.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with donations from this point, because this budget thing just fell on me at the end of June,” he said. “I have cut back on some of the donations since then.”

When asked why he did not use the money to cut into the department’s funding gap, he said after expenses the commissary fund pays for, there is a minimal amount remaining. He added that the money from the commissary fund cannot be used to pay a salary.

“It’s just a drop in the bucket compared to what we need,” Rodden said. “I feel like I’m trying to help in the community. Maybe I have to stop that. I’ll just have to evaluate that as it comes.”

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