County likely to allocate additional $2 million to sheriff’s office
Loudoun's Board of Supervisors is likely to allocate an additional $2 million in the current fiscal year to the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office to help make up for a roughly $2.3 million overrun in the department's budget.
If the full board agrees to the recommendation from its finance committee, the $2 million will come from enhanced tax revenue not budgeted for by county staff. The board will consider the recommendation during either its March 20 or April 3 meeting.
Despite the finance committee's vote to recommend the funding, several supervisors made known March 12 their displeasure with having to sign off on the additional allocation.
“We don't like to be in this position. We are where we are,” Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), chairman of the finance committee, said. “We don't want to be here next year in this same situation.”
After initially believing the LCSO budget expenditures were in excess of $2.7 million – a figure first brought to light during a March 7 budget work session – county staff briefed supervisors this week that approximately $450,000 of that was a miscalculation from the county's finance, in which they didn't appropriately budget for stipends at the county's detention center.
Overtime pay and personnel is the driving force behind LCSO's budget burst, according to Republican Sheriff Mike Chapman.
On March 12 Chapman told the finance committee he was glad the questions had been brought up, because it was an opportunity to take a broad look at the department's budget.
According to sheriff, approximately $1.2 million of the $2.3 million are holidays that the LCSO is required to pay.
“Why the County categorizes holidays that deputies are required to work as an overtime calculation remains a mystery to me,” Chapman said. “It is a fact that the Sheriff’s Office mans operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We cannot take holidays off.”
Vacancy savings, a county policy through which departments must leave unfilled positions vacant for cost-savings, is also a major element, Chapman said. Vacancy savings alone accounts for the nearly $2 million in overtime expenses.
“This is where we have the most heartburn,” Chapman said, speaking of the vacancy policy.
Board Vice Chairman Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) explained, “we have a significant amount of vacancies – 29, 30 vacancies – and because we can't fill those vacancies [because of the vacancy savings policy] we have to pay people considerable overtime.”
Additionally, high costs for security during presidential and presidential candidate visits to the county during the 2012 campaign and severe weather forced the LCSO to incur unexpected expenses.
Ben Mays, the county's chief finance officer, reiterated comments from a March 7 budget meeting with supervisors that any department overrunning its budget is extraordinarily unusual.
Supervisors this week again expressed disappointment the budget findings weren't brought to their attention earlier, given the sheriff knew in November his department was heading for significant spending beyond his more than $73 million budget.
Chapman accepted blame for the lack of communication and said he'll make sure it doesn't happen in the future.
"From here on out, I'll make sure that we get this information to you so that there is no misunderstanding as to where we are exactly in a budget cycle," Chapman told the supervisors.