Fiscal Responsibility...

June 20, 2018

During a 2017 survey conducted by Tompkins County during their Law Enforcement Shared Services study, some common themes emerged.  One such theme was the public desire for “fiscal responsibility” when it comes to the operation of the Sheriff’s Office. 


Because the Sheriff’s Office is funded through the support of hard-working tax payers, this is completely understandable.  Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s Office has been under-staffed for years, made up for by a budget line for anticipated overtime expenses.  Due to the fringe rate (cost of employment benefits), it’s far less expensive to pay overtime than it is to add additional staffing.  Regardless, if overtime isn’t properly managed it can easily get out of control.


The biggest indicator of proper management of the Sheriff’s Office budget is in the control of its overtime.  With many years of administrative experience within the Sheriff’s Office, I have the knowledge and experience needed to ensure the best quality service while also keeping the budget in check.  When I became Undersheriff in 2011, I quickly took it upon myself to be fiscally responsible.  In my first year, I reduced overtime by $107,778.  In 2012 I reduced it by an additional $37,493.  For a comparative study of the difference in my leadership, please refer to the below table.



When it came time to ask the Legislature for an additional $360,000 to cover so many overruns, where was my opponent?  Nowhere to be found.  Instead, Undersheriff Brian Robison attended the 08/15/15 meeting to make his case for the needed funds.  During his plea to a beleaguered Legislature for more money, he admitted that they, “weren't even looking in this direction”.


What does this mean to you the taxpayer?  Well, the same survey expressed concerns over crime response and community engagement.  Imagine if this money had been allocated towards these purposes! 


When confronted during a recent Tompkins Weekly interview about blowing the overtime budget after my retirement, my opponent responded that overtime, “was difficult, if not impossible to predict, making it hard to budget precisely for”.  He went on to say, “but no one person below me is responsible for either end of it.  The saving or being guilty of overspending”, and overspending is “nobody’s fault”. 


This is simply not the case. 


Overtime, while hard to predict, is an issue that the sheriff must be able to manage.  There are many decisions that have led to the current level of overspending and, for which, my opponent should be held accountable.  Here is one specific example:


During my time as Undersheriff, the top jail official retired.  She held the rank of Captain and had a Lieutenant position underneath her.  At that time, I approached the Legislature with an idea.  I recommended that we combine the Chief and Lieutenant position and create a new Captain position.  This allowed us to replace two administrative positions with one.  This created a huge savings in salary, which enabled me to promote a Jail Corporal to a Jail Sergeant and create a new Correction Officer position that was so desperately needed.  This was all done without adding one dollar to the overall salary costs.  What made this even better, was that the new Jail Captain position mirrored the law enforcement side that was also led by a Captain.


Shortly after I retired, my opponent did the exact opposite, and all at an enormous impact to your hard-earned tax dollars.  It went like this:

The Law Enforcement Captain also retired.  This was historically a non-union salaried position which paid approximately $82,000 per year.  My opponent decided that rather than fill this position, he would replace it with a new lower-ranking Lieutenant position.  The problem with this is the Lieutenant rank is a union position that is overtime eligible.   In 2016 and 2017, the person that my opponent put in this new position made approximately $120,000 each year.  Keep in mind, that this is far more than even the Sheriff makes.


What did you, the taxpayer get for this? You received a lower-ranking position with the same responsibilities, but with much higher pay at your expense. Ironically, the lower-ranking Law Enforcement Lieutenant now makes more than the higher-ranking Jail Captain.  If you do the math, you will see that over just two years alone, this unfortunate move cost you $78,000!


While overtime may be hard to predict, careful fiscal management can and will lead to a balanced budget.  The current budget inflation should not be simply dismissed because overtime is hard to predict. On the contrary, it is because overtime is hard to predict that the Sheriff must pay close attention to the issues like the one I have outlined above.


When it comes time to vote for your next Sheriff, please make your selection carefully.  Your hard-earned cash depends on it.  Who do you trust with your money?

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Tompkins County Sheriff - Ithaca, NY




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