Earlier this month, Sheriff Babeu wrote an op-ed announcing his intention to permanently reassign twenty deputies from rural areas within Pinal County to the San Tan Valley community effective June 1st.
The Sheriff has the right to manage the Pinal County Sheriffs Office (PCSO) as he sees fit. That is his constitutional duty. However, a few questions should be asked:
• Shouldn’t the decision to reduce the number of deputies stationed around the county and deploy additional deputies in San Tan Valley be based upon reducing crime rather than adhering to population models?
• Is the Sheriff’s desire to add 64 deputies a higher priority for him than providing equitable pay for his current sworn officers?
• Is it fair for taxpayers in small rural communities to pick up the tax bill to support additional deputies in higher populated communities?
The Sheriff claims in the article that the Board of Supervisors does not put a priority on public safety and that our Board has done little to change the status quo established by previous Boards.
In June 2013, I wrote an article in response to similar allegations made by the Sheriff. I will gladly restate the fact I presented in that article:
Sheriff’s allegation: 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, the budget 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.
The Board of Supervisors has an excellent track record of supporting public safety as evidenced by just a couple of the following examples:
• The Board of Supervisors supported Lando Voyles, our County Attorney in his quest to fundamentally change the function of the County Attorney’s Office from plea bargaining to prosecuting serious and violent crimes. This required us to make a serious financial commitment. In doing so, Pinal County has sent a strong message that career criminals have no safe haven in Pinal County.
• The Board of Supervisors is working to fix the broken pay/promotion structure used for all sworn officers. For morale sake and for a sense of fairness, I believe the Board should make it a priority to correct parity issues and fix this broken system as soon as possible.
The Sheriff’s claim that the Board of Supervisors have done next to nothing to change the status quo is extremely inaccurate. In the first half of 2013, all elected offices came to the Board to pitch their efforts to improve the effectiveness and/or efficiency of their offices. The Board supported most proposals unless they either busted the budget or significantly increased the size of government. Sheriff Babeu was the biggest offender in doing it the wrong way and threatens to do it again by bringing us proposals that could bust the budget and cause a huge tax increase. I hope taxpayers support us as we hold firm to our fiscal goals.
In another example of challenging the status quo, the Board of Supervisors looked into areas that for years have bled the county’s financial reserves. During our term in office, we have fixed the U.S. Marshall’s Juvenile Detention contract and the Pinal Air Park lease agreements that were consistently losing money. In the coming weeks, we will fix the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contract that has cost the taxpayers over $2 million in losses annually.
The Board of Supervisors has and will continue to make changes to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our county’s government. It is counterproductive for Sheriff Babeu to keep calling us out when working together as a team we can get so much more accomplished. I’m very optimistic about Pinal County’s future. To position our county for sustainable growth, we must restore our financial health. We can do it, it just takes teamwork.
Chairman, Pinal County Supervisors