YOU ARE HERE: IVPress HomeCollections

Our Opinion: Bad budgeting, good sheriff

March 26, 2002

It probably is futile to hope that certain people won't make political hay about the county Sheriff's Office suffering a shortfall of $3.1 million this fiscal year.

Sheriff Harold Carter is disliked by some, even some in his own department, and has just come off an ugly re-election campaign. So there are still hard feelings out there, and people with hard feelings often feel the compulsion to vent. The budget problems announced last week provide the perfect opportunity.

But the truth is much of the shortage the department accrued is out of the control of Carter. He cannot control how many federal inmates the federal government sends to be housed in our county jail. Federal inmate money that has not been received accounts for about $2.2 million of the shortfall.

The fact is there are fewer federal inmates right now because of changes in illegal immigration patterns, among other factors. There also are more places to house federal inmates in our area now than there ever have been. The net result for the county is a lower monetary net than anticipated this fiscal year from housing federal inmates.


And Carter cannot control county officials offering a retirement package that some employees found too tempting to resist. That meant hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll had to be spent. We assume that necessitated more overtime for still-working employees, and overtime has added another significant chunk to the shortfall.

One might argue that happy employees would not be so eager to retire, but many folks are simply ready to do something else when they hit a certain age, no matter how much they love their jobs.

Carter, from our view, has been a hard-working, diligent sheriff who has done his best to run an efficient, cost-effective and modern department. Right now he's coming up short money-wise, but preparing budgets often involves prognostication, and Carter may not have predicted the future as well as he could have. Still, who would have predicted the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on this nation, that possibly more than any other action in recent years discouraged illegal immigration?

We do think it is time for the opposing sides in the recent sheriff's race to put the whole enmity thing to bed. Neither candidate was perfect, and both have jobs to do to serve and protect us, and all the backbiting surely only distracts both men and their employees from their assigned, important tasks.

Carter thinks he can make up a lot of the shortfall in the few months left of the county's fiscal year. We hope he can.

We also hope he budgets with a little more restraint this year.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles