Copper Area News
The Pinal County Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff’s Office have begun the political posturing portion of the budgeting process.
During a recent budget working session, the Board of Supervisors left Sheriff Paul Babeu with the impression that new funds would not be forthcoming in the 2014-2015 budget. In response, Sheriff Babeu released a letter to the media outlining his plan to deal with the growing population in unincorporated areas and a lack of new resources. According to his letter, the Sheriff will reallocate 20 sworn personnel to San Tan Valley from the rest of the County areas.
According to the Sheriff, PCSO would need 141 additional sworn personnel to meet similar staffing levels maintained by Maricopa and Pima counties. Last year the Sheriff sought 64 new sworn personnel, but received no additional funds. Babeu indicated that the efficiency gains via new technology, procedures and training allowed the department to handle the growing population while overall staffing was reduced. However, the Sheriff asserts population gains coupled with efficiency improvements have reached parity. To maintain countywide service levels, PCSO must increase staff, or barring that, shift resources to meet minimum service levels in the high population grow areas. The beneficiaries of the reshuffle will be the residents of San Tan Valley.
The effect on the remaining areas of the county is not clear. The Sheriff indicates that Priority 1 calls will be still be handled quickly, but lower priority calls might have a longer response time.
As the county continues to add population to unincorporated areas, the pressure on PCSO will continue to increase. Either additional funds will need to be provided or the high growth areas could take steps to build their own police forces via incorporation. No one has a crystal ball to determine which course makes the most sense for the high growth areas and the County as a whole. What is all but certain, is the pressure on County finances and the Sheriff’s department will continue.
Supervisors Pete Rios and Cheryl Chase did not have a comment before press time.