Cecil County Budget: Crime, Punishment and Canines Come to Commissioners
Crime makes citizens pay and public safety requires public dollars was the message to the Cecil County Commissioners from safety agencies Tuesday, during reviews of budget proposals for the upcoming Fiscal 2012 budget year.
Sheriff Barry Janney said he needs to hire and equip two additional patrol deputies, replace 11 old patrol cars and an SUV and add 7 officers to the staff at the detention center.
Janney pointed out that the Sheriff’s Department is now designated the primary law enforcement agency for Cecil County and the state police have continued to cut back on their involvement in county law enforcement. The sheriff’s agency took over traffic accident investigations about a year ago and the sheriff’s department now has its own crime scene investigative technician.
He said that Cecil County’s crime rate rose 1.3 percent from 2008-2009, and Cecil was one of only four counties in the state where the crime rate rose in that period. “There is a constant strain on our manpower,” Janney said. He pointed out the operations of the Street Level Crime unit, which has been involved in solving problems in the Crystal Beach area in the southern part of the county.
Janney said he thinks “I’m going to need to increase” deployments of members of that unit to deal with crime problems in the county.
Included in his budget proposals were replacement and equipment costs of $452,000 for law enforcement vehicles. The two new deputy hires were budgeted at an annual base pay of $38,875 but the costs of their uniforms, equipment, training, overtime pay, etc was estimated at $25,735 a year total for both.
With a new detention center now under construction, Janney noted he will need additional correctional officers to staff the expanded facility. And he noted the budget impact of the loss of more than $726,000 in state aid for the Community Adult Rehabilitation Center program at the jail.
[See previous Cecil Times report on the CARC aid loss here:
Commissioners asked few questions during the budget review. Two of the commissioners—James Mullin (R-1) and Michael Dunn (R-3)— published a statement proposing major cuts of $3 million or more in public safety spending a month ago but they have not reiterated that proposal since then.
With the Sheriff’s office bringing in all those criminals, “they’re generating more work” for the State’s Attorney’s office, said State’s Attorney EDE “Ellis” Rollins III. He said his agency was “busting at the seams” with a heavy caseload. He asked for $68,000 to hire another full-time prosecutor and also asked for another clerical staffer.
But he said his “fallback” position would be to make two of his part-time prosecutors full-timers, with an extra $11,000 a year compensation for each.
Jeanne Deeming, executive director of the Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc., which provides animal control services to the county under a fixed-price contract, said the agency was proposing its third consecutive “freeze” level budget request, for $648,000 in Fiscal 2012.
She said the proposal is even $35,000 less than the budget provided in Fiscal 2009, while rising numbers of pets are being turned over to the shelter because of the recession.
“Yet our costs have not been frozen,” Deeming said. She said the SPCA had to layoff two employees and reduce some workers’ hours this year due to rising costs, frozen funds from the county and increased contractual demands for services by the county that commissioners were not willing to pay for.
In addition, an alleged dogfighting case cost the shelter $42,000 in unreimbursed costs to hold 11 pitbulls in custody for more than six months before the case went to court. (The charges were ultimately not prosecuted, she said, and no reimbursement of those costs was ordered by the court.)
She said the actual cost of animal control services in Fiscal 2012, “even under extreme belt-tightening scenarios,” was actually nearly $731,000. She said the shortfall of nearly $83,000 would end up being paid by donors to the non-profit group.
Deeming warned that the proposed contract was based on existing animal laws and the adoption of a new ordinance currently under review would impose new, costly requirements, including longer holding periods for strays before they can be made available for adoption and inspections of commercial kennels.
“The county can pass whatever ordinance it wants,” Deeming said, “but if the county is unwilling to pay the costs, the ordinance will not be worth the paper it is written on.”
Deeming presented figures showing that the local SPCA provides animal control services at the cheapest per capita cost on the Upper Eastern Shore-- $6.30 per resident. In comparison, the highest costs in the region were in Queen Anne’s County, which has half the population of Cecil County but spends more dollars ($962,760 or $20.14 per capita) in the current budget year.
Queen Anne’s County is the only area in the region with a government-operated animal control program and shelter. (In Cecil County, the SPCA owns its land and shelter.)
As part of their past budget cut press release, Mullin and Dunn wanted to do away with the SPCA contract, cutting $500,000, and assigned “dogcatcher” duties to the Sheriff. Those commissioners did not broach that subject at Tuesday’s hearings.
[Disclosure: The editor of Cecil Times adopted two dogs from the Cecil County SPCA and in the past was an unpaid volunteer board member.]