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County: Report's bark worse than bite

March 28, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

A report released last week by the county auditor-controller showed the Sheriff's Office $905,554 overbudget, but the report looks worse than the budget really is, county officials say.

The report did not reflect all the updates, including more money for salary and benefit increases negotiated between the county and labor unions, county Auditor-Controller Douglas R. Newland said.

Newland said he didn't mention the salary numbers when he presented the report to the Board of Supervisors because he didn't think the numbers would have that big of an impact.


"We haven't been able to get the budget figures on our system updated for all the raises that went in last year," he said.

The Auditor-Controller's Office converted to a new accounting software program three weeks ago. In addition to the software conversion, Newland said he only has one or two people assigned to input the salary and benefit changes for more than 1,800 county employees.

The Sheriff's Office saw the most dollars in salary increases because it is a large department, with about 260 employees, and because safety employees generally make more money than other departments, he said.

"Other departments had similar problems, but nowhere near the magnitude of what happened to the Sheriff's Office," Newland said.

Sheriff Harold Carter said the miscommunication was unfortunate.

"You can't give people salary increases, ranging from 3 to 18 percent and not put the money in the department's budget," Carter said.

He said he thinks his department will get about $2,000 to $4,000 per employee, plus benefit money.

The sheriff's jail operations are still $2.2 million overbudget because money for federal inmates hasn't been coming in. Those budget numbers will not be affected when the salary and benefit increases are added to the sheriff's budget.

County Executive Officer Ann Capela said an updated report would be available in a few weeks.

Once the software conversion is in place and the numbers are put in manually, the county will have a better idea of the impact the salary increases had on the budget, Capela said.

"But there will be a deficit because of the actions the board took. The impact is still there," she said.

Capela said the county's biggest budget challenge will be next year. State officials have already projected cuts to county budgets.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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