Cape Girardeau County sheriff gets a 3 percent cap on spending for 2009 and beyond

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cape Girardeau County commissioners have approved, in a 2-to-1 vote, an agreement to limit the county sheriff's department spending increases to 3 percent. The agreement was written as a memorandum of understanding.

Sheriff John Jordan said he was happy with the decision.

The agreement sets a 2.5 percent limit on general funds from the county; requires the sheriff's department to cap spending at 3 percent; and initiates a requirement for 15 percent of monthly Proposition 1 revenue -- money from a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2006 -- to be deposited in a perpetual fund. The vote retroactively sets the start date for the savings plan at Jan. 1, 2008. Without the savings plan, the money would be gone in less than five years, according to county Treasurer Roger Hudson.

First District Commissioner Larry Bock opposed the vote, in part because he opposed backdating the plan. He said the commission should have set the start date for Monday. Bock also opposed the size of the savings plan, pressing to reduce the figure in 2nd District commissioner Jay Purcell's motion to approve the agreement to 10 percent.

The decision marks the first time commissioners defined long-term spending limits for the sheriff. On average, the sheriff's department has had an annual spending increase of 3.6 percent over the previous year, according to Hudson.

Since the beginning of the year, county officials have been looking for ways to maximize the money, which is divided among the sheriff's department, the county's highway department's paving program and various other entities, such as the city of Jackson and the Cape Special Road District. The sheriff and highway department each receive $1.2 million annually from the tax; any money unspent by the sheriff is sent to the hard surface paving program.

After Bock called for more conservative management of the sheriff's allocation, Jordon reminded him that, before voters approved a half-cent sales tax, his department had a 23 percent turnover rate. This year, he said, the sheriff's department is fully staffed and salaries are competitive with such departments as the city of Cape Girardeau.

"Now the rate of growth was going to slow anyway. That's why I think 3 percent is realistic. Is there times when we'll have to go in there? Yeah. You know, food prices shot up 5.5 percent this year. We negotiated with the company to keep it to 4.78 percent. Those are the kind of issues you come up with."

He went on to say that other costs, such as $4.05-a-gallon gas, could not be predicted, but having a written agreement would help him negotiate with vendors.


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