The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office (LCSO) is more than $2.7 million over budget for the current fiscal year, something that's “extraordinarily unusual,” according to Loudoun County staff.
And what's more discouraging for Loudoun Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) than the financial overrun itself is that neither Sheriff Mike Chapman, a Republican, nor anyone else from the sheriff's office has addressed the board to explain the expenditures.
Buona, the chairman of the board's finance committee who pointed out the budgetary concern during a Thursday work session, asked Chapman why no one has come forward to detail the excess spending or outline a proactive approach to rein it in.
“I've been told that your department was made aware of this quite some time back during the fiscal year,” Buona said, speaking to Chapman.
Given the county is entering the fourth quarter of its fiscal year, it's unlikely the LCSO can cut expenses enough to balance its more than $73 million budget.
The current budget is up nearly $800,000 from the previous year.
For fiscal 2014, for which the supervisors are in the midst of work sessions and deliberations, the sheriff's office is requesting an increase of nearly $2 million for various department enhancements. The board on Thursday deferred any decisions on next year's budget for the LCSO until a presentation is made on the fiscal 2013 spending.
Sheriff Chapman was not given an opportunity to explain his department's budget Thursday; he's expected to do so March 12 during a finance committee meeting.
Chapman told the Times-Mirror virtually all the extra expenses stem from overtime pay, which was extraordinary this year because of the derecho in summer 2012, Hurricane Sandy, the recent snowfall and the presidential campaign visits.
“All of those instances were unpredictable and required extra safety assistance,” Chapman said in an email.
Chapman also pointed out that holidays are counted as overtime pay, something that “remains a mystery” to him, since the LCSO cannot simply take holidays off. Approximately $1.2 million of the $2.7 million overage is because of holidays the LCSO is required to pay, Chapman said.
As for why the out-of-line budget wasn't brought to supervisors' attention sooner, the sheriff said he had been of the understanding it was, in fact, passed along to the board and county staff.
“I was as surprised as Supervisor Buona that this was not the case, or that there were questions as to the accuracy of the information passed along. Consequently, from now forward, I will make it a point to discuss our budget matters directly with Supervisor Buona and other members of the Board of Supervisors,” Chapman said.
Buona and board Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) did acknowledge there were numerous cases of severe weather in 2012, as well as multiple visits from presidential candidates and their wives, all events that cost the sheriff's office resources.
But that did little to quell several supervisors' concerns on why they weren't briefed on the LCSO running millions of dollars in the red.
"What we don't want is surprises," Buona said Friday morning. "If this would've been brought to our attention a few months ago, we could've maybe put a dent in this gap."
Supervisor Ken Reid (R-Leesburg) was taken aback by the revelation, calling it “quite stunning.” Reid asked finance staff if this was out of the norm.
“It is extraordinarily unusual for a department to overrun its budget in the course of a year,” Ben Mays, the county's finance director, said. “… It is very rare …”
This story has been updated to include comments from Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.