By STACY MILLBERG
Ashtabula County Commissioners said Thursday they will make the necessary adjustments to balance the Sheriff’s budget through the end of the year.
County Administrator Janet Discher and Commissioner Dan Claypool met with Sheriff William Johnson earlier this week to discuss the shortfall. The Sheriff will need $230,000 to balance his budget this year.
Commissioners approved a $30,000 appropriation last week for jail supplies, which leaves an additional $200,000, which commissioners plan to appropriate before year end.
Claypool said Johnson had very legitimate reasons why there were increases in his budget and the additional money is necessary.
“I’m certainly not willing to make cuts at this point,” he said.
Johnson said there are a lot of moving parts and pieces to his department which need to be considered when it comes to the budget.
“It’s not only the road division,” he said. “We are the only full-time jail in the county.”
Johnson said when the county expanded the jail this year, he had nothing to go on as to what the increased cost to operate it would be.
“When you put in an average, you really don’t know,” he said. “That’s kind of what ballooned the budget.”
Johnson said there has been an increase in overtime due to things beyond his control such as an increase in arrests and court cases.
“It’s because we are doing our job out there,” he said.
The Sheriff also has a three-year cop grant, which will expire in May, that has paid the salaries and benefits of three deputies under the condition that once the grant expires, the county will retain those deputies.
Claypool said that expense will need to factored into the Sheriff’s budget for next year.
The majority of the budget shortfall comes from the increase in jail expenses, but Discher said there other areas that were short as well.
The Sheriff Policing Revolving Fund, which was created by law to house the funds generated from the Ashtabula Township levy for extra patrol as well as a school resource officer for Lakeside High School, is short $50,000. The levy, which will be collected through the end of next year, generates about $150,000.
Johnson said he thinks his department has done an extremely good job in staying close to the amount of money they give him to run the largest police department in the county. Johnson is working on his budget for next year and is hoping to see an increase.
“If I’m fair to them and they’re fair to me with what they give me, then we should be good at the end of the year and shouldn’t have to do much adjusting,” he said.
Claypool said the increase in the jail is definitely something commissioners will have to consider for next year’s budget.
“It’s something we have to be prepared for next year,” he said. “These inmates just aren’t going away.”
Johnson said the increase to his budget was just a cost of doing business, there were no luxuries for his department.