A bi-partisan response to letter calling for Supervisors and public safety funding

This is in response to Ms. Raaum’s letter to the editor published on June 19, 2013.  This is a well thought out and factual response by my Republican colleague – Supervisor Anthony Smith to Sheriff Babeu’s financial requests made to the Board of Supervisors.

  Sincerely,

/s/ Pete Rios

Pinal County Board of Supervisors

  Lately, there have been several newspaper articles, editorials and even some emails written by Sheriff Babeu stating that the Board of Supervisors should increase the level of funding for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO).

I believe your county leaders have the same goal of providing residents with a high level of public safety. However, the approach your Board of Supervisors has taken is far different from that proposed by the Sheriff. The purpose of this note is to give you my perspective on funding for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and our budget situation as a whole.

During this year’s budget development, your Board of Supervisors did our best to protect taxpayers from feeling the impact of Pinal County’s declining revenues. As a result of much hard work, the 2013-2014 County Budget that starts on July 1 will not increase your property taxes; it controls spending and keeps our county’s financial health on solid ground.

With regard to the 2013-2014 County Budget, if elected officers felt they could not live within their current budget, the Board of Supervisors gave them an opportunity to present an alternative budget.

To this end, Sheriff Babeu initially presented a $12.1 million request that would have bankrupted our county in as little as three years. Later, he reduced his request to $2.3 million over his current year budget. Even that increase would have reduced our ending financial balance to a point where we may have been unable to respond to an emergency situation (flooding, etc.) or may have placed our county in financial risk. As a result, the Board of Supervisors turned down both requests for an increased budget.

For the purpose of reviewing the facts, I have restated what I believe to be the major points Sheriff Babeu made in his articles as compared to the results of my research:

1. Sheriff Babeu: The Board of Supervisors needs to make funding for public safety their number one priority.

Fact: The Board of Supervisors is committed to public safety as their number one priority. In fact, 63% of the county’s entire expenditure is related to public safety. Additionally, during the last ten years when Pinal County’s population doubled, spending for the Sheriff’s office has tripled. When comparing the amount of General Fund dollars per capita population, the amount we spend for PCSO is higher than the amount spent by any of our state’s larger counties.

2. Sheriff Babeu: The PCSO needs more than the 209 deputies it has to cover the 212,000 residents who live in the unincorporated areas of the county.

Fact: The number of PCSO deputies per 1000 population is very near the same ratio as in some Pinal County cities. For example: The City of Maricopa has 40 sworn officers for a population of 45,000 people. In addition, when comparing the coverage ratio for Pinal County deputies to the coverage ratio for the rest of the state, PCSO is at the State median.

3. Sheriff Babeu: The PCSO has 44 patrol cars that will soon have over 150,000 miles and these vehicles need to be replaced immediately.

Fact: The proposed budget approved by the Board of Supervisors allocated $1.5 million for vehicle replacement costs. $1.5 Million should be an adequate amount to keep a quality fleet of vehicles in service and replace high mileage vehicles.

In my past role as mayor and now as your County Supervisor, I have a strong record of protecting public safety while at the same time managing limited financial resources. To that point, it is imperative that the Sheriff adjust his spending priorities and seriously analyze and reallocate his funds to provide for the possibilities of additional deputies, higher wages, or to fund more vehicles while keeping within his budget.

/s/ Anthony Smith

Pinal County Board of Supervisors

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