Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia says by balancing his department’s $392 million budget, he’ll be able to transfer 100 deputies from jail duties to crime-fighting jobs in the next year while hiring hundreds of new civilian jailers.
During a news conference Monday, Garcia said when he took office in January 2009 the department was spending $56 million more a year than approved by Commissioners Court. When the budget year ended Feb. 29, the department spent $2.8 million less than was budgeted.
“The budget was out of control,” Garcia said. “I brought in executives from the business world and told them it was irresponsible to allow this to happen. I challenged them to fix it, and they did.”
Garcia said the savings will allow him to begin filling 240 vacancies in the jail with civilian jailers. He said in the next 12 months they will transfer 100 deputies - 60 to patrol and 40 to investigations and court protection – now assigned to jail duties.
A countywide hiring freeze that began in October 2009 – now lifted – was among factors forcing the county to pay large amounts of mandatory overtime to legally staff the jails. Garcia said jail overtime payments, which reached a high of $40 million a year and totalled $20 million last year, can be cut to $15 million this fiscal year, which began in March 1.
“We’ve already brought overspending under control, now we’re working to put more boots on the ground to keep Harris County safe and to continue to bring crime under control,” Garcia said.
Obviously, the reduction in the inmate population, which recently enabled the county to cease outsourcing them to other jails, has had a big effect on the Sheriff’s ability to balance his budget. There are a number of factors responsible for that – DA Pat Lykos gets some credit, the overall decline in the crime rate gets some – but Sheriff Garcia has implemented some policies to abet that. The bottom line is that there’s a lot of progress being made, which Garcia gets to trumpet and Steve Radack gets to whine about. Gotta love that. A copy of the Sheriff’s press release is beneath the fold.
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia announced today that he will beef up the county’s crime-fighting force by about 100 deputies now that he and staff have balanced the Sheriff’s Office budget for the first time in six years.
“We’re fighting to protect the community as well as your pocketbook,” he said at a news conference in Tomball at one of the Harris County Sheriffs Office’s five patrol substations in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The sheriff revealed the reversal of two troubling trends in local law enforcement.
When he took office in 2009, the sheriff inherited spending that was $56 million over the amount budgeted by Commissioners Court. For the budget year that ended Feb. 29 of this year, spending was $2.8 million below the budgeted amount – a swing of almost $59 million a year.
“The budget was out of control,” Sheriff Garcia said. “I brought in executives from the business world and told them it was irresponsible to allow this to happen. I challenged them to fix it and they did.”
The savings of taxpayer money put the Sheriff’s Office in the position of being able to hire civilian detention officers to staff the county jail. As they are phased in, deputy positions now assigned to the jail will be re-deployed – 60 to patrol and about 40 to crime investigations and protection of courts.
A county-wide hiring freeze had blocked the Sheriff’s Office from filling vacancies since October 2009. While the crime fighting force continued to decline, the unincorporated areas continued to grow in population, along with calls for service. Yet the Sheriff’s Office was able to keep the lid on crime and emergency response times while waiting for reinforcements.
“The hiring freeze is over,” the sheriff said. “Our budget controls have put us in a better position for the future. I will make sure we hold the line on crime.”
Sheriff Garcia thanks Commissioners Court for providing a budget for the new fiscal year that will finally allow the HCSO to replace personnel who retire, resign or are dismissed. He also thanked crime-fighting deputies who have worked under trying conditions.
He urged those interested in applying for detention officer openings to contact the Sheriff’s Office. Job information is available at www.hcsojobs.com