WAURIKA, OK (KSWO) - Conflict over the county budget in Jefferson County as the sheriff says it's forced his department to work with only two full-time employees on patrol.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department was budgeted just over $283,000 for the year but most of it is supposed to fund the county jail. Only $72,000 of it was budgeted to run the department, which Sheriff Jeremie Wilson said only covers his and his undersheriff's salaries.
"What that did was it made it to where I had to lay off our evening full-time deputy," Wilson said. "He was a CLEET certified instructor, he had a K-9 unit. We had to lay him off because I didn't have the budget for a deputy at night. So that leaves basically a 774-mile square county protected and served by a sheriff and undersheriff only."
Jefferson County Commissioner Bryce Bohot said despite the $72,000 budget for the department, there are other sources of income that Sheriff Wilson could utilize. For example, there was $96,000 budgeted to feed the inmates at the jail, but so far, it's cost much less. Bohot said Wilson could simply ask the commissioners to re-budget that money into the sheriff's department.
"We ask that he show where he is year to date on the food cost and what it's costing him a month to do it and we give him a discrepancy year to date. If he'd spent $20,000 and estimated $48,000 we give him the discrepancy," Bohot said.
Sheriff Wilson said he does not want to take money away from funding the jail and, for now, they're getting by by utilizing the department's cash funds.
"Cash funds are something that's not budgeted, it comes from sheriff's service fees and things like that," Wilson said. "It's nowhere near enough money. We do a lot of juggling money, I hate to use the term but it's essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul. What it does is it puts a strain on us because we might make payroll this month but where are we going to move money from to make payroll next month."
Wilson said during budget meetings he suggested finding cuts in other county departments. He said he knows those jobs are important to the county but felt there were other spots cuts could have been made.
"When the sheriff's department, not the jail, the sheriff's department is given $72,000 and other departments are given $90,000 or $100,000, where are we putting our priorities? Is it public safety or is it an office job? We work 24/7, 365 days a year, there are no holidays, no vacations, we don't get that luxury," Wilson said.
Bohot said cutting jobs in other departments simply was not possible.
"We looked into different departments and how the money was funded," Bohot said. "I would just suggest that anyone has any discrepancies or questions about why we budgeted the way we did needs to kind of dig into what that job title is and realize more about that department."
Bohot also pointed out that when the budget was approved on October 2nd, Sheriff Wilson signed off on it.
"Every department head when we approve the budget has to sign that they can work within those means and his signature was on there," Bohot said.
Sheriff Wilson said the department does have several volunteer reserves who essentially serve as their backup. He said those reserves are extremely helpful but because they're all volunteers who have other full-time jobs, he can't schedule them to work shifts, he can only rely on them to show up in emergency situations.