After initially voting Wednesday to approve an additional $1.9 million allotment to the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office (LCSO), the Board of Supervisors later reconsidered and voted to table final action on the spending decision until April.
The additional funds will likely be needed in the weeks ahead, several supervisors agreed, in order to ensure law enforcement officials receive paychecks later in the current fiscal year, which runs through June; but the board wants a deeper look at the financial data on why Sheriff Mike Chapman has exceeded his budget by nearly $2.3 million this year.
County staff is expected to present that information to the supervisors in the weeks ahead.
The turning point Wednesday came after several supervisors were briefed on an editorial Chapman wrote for the Times-Mirror and other media outlets.
Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said he was put off by the fact Chapman blamed everyone but himself for the excess spending. Buona said he wished the sheriff would've taken personal responsibility regarding his budget.
Chapman says overtime pay and personnel staffing are the driving forces behind LCSO's budget excesses. Vacancy savings, a county policy through which departments must leave approved positions vacant for cost-savings, is the key element, Chapman said.
The sheriff explained vacancy savings as under-staffing stemming from the Board of Supervisors approving additional positions yet not allowing the sheriff's office to fill the positions.
“These positions are held hostage,” Chapman wrote in an editorial. “Doing this makes the county appear as though it saved [money] … By forcing the LCSO to incur such a high number of vacancy savings, our workforce becomes understaffed and we must backfill (sic) the positions by paying time and a half overtime – a process that actually costs more than filling the originally allocated, but unfunded positions.”
Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) initiated the reconsideration Wednesday, noting there seems to be disagreement between Chapman and the county's finance staff on budget details.
Buona pointed out the county policies Chapman bashed have been in place in previous years, but the previous sheriff never overspent his total budget.
In early March, Buona brought to light the LCSO was approximately $2.7 million over its $73 million budget for the current fiscal year ending in June. That amount was later estimated to be closer to $2.3 million due to an error on behalf of the county's finance staff.
The additional funds, if approved, will come from excess county revenue.