While the 2014 balanced budget approved by the Augusta Commission included across-the-board 2.4 percent cuts in all the consolidated government’s departments, lopping what amounts to nearly $900,000 from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office will really hurt, a member of the sheriff’s citizen advisory board said.
David Dunagan, a member of the Citizens Advisory Board created by Sheriff Richard Roundtree after Roundtree took office last year, said he’ll appeal to the Augusta Commission today to spare the sheriff’s office from the cuts to keep successful initiatives in place and build on new ones.
“The sheriff inherited a good department, but he’s taken it from there. Homicides are down about 50 percent,” Dunagan said. “Traffic fatalities are down about 40 percent… We as citizens feel like the last thing we need right now is to cut 2.4 percent.”
Meanwhile, Roundtree has stretched his existing budget in creative ways, such as the new safety officers who help patrol downtown at one-third the cost of an armed deputy and a new “zone manager” program that will connect residents to a supervisor who is assigned to their particular neighborhoods, he said.
The sheriff’s office budget of $56 million is more than a third of the General Fund budget of $143 million set under Georgia law by the Augusta Commission. The commission is scheduled today to discuss the status of each department’s efforts to implement the cuts.
Commissioners Bill Fennoy and Marion Williams said they were uncertain the commission could deny the sheriff, an elected official, any needed funding while Commissioner Bill Lockett said he wished all departments hadn’t been cut evenly when the commission approved the budget.
“Most of these departments except for the enterprise funds, they’ve been struggling year after year,” Lockett said.
“I’m trusting the sheriff who was elected by the people to do what’s right,” Williams said.
The commission meets at 1:15 p.m. today for a called legal meeting to discuss litigation, real estate, personnel and administrative proceedings behind closed doors, according to a meeting notice. The body is scheduled to begin its regular meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the commission chamber, 530 Greene St.