Sheriff says he can't cut any more from budget

January 13, 2011 5:28:29 PM PST
Harris County is expecting every department to cut 10 percent out of its current budget, but on Thursday, Sheriff Adrian Garcia admitted that's a tough proposition. In fact, he says he can't do it. While county commissioners are looking for every corner they can cut financially, they might not be getting much more help from Sheriff Garcia. He says he's already running the county jail and law enforcement on bare threads.

"I know that my staff is overworked. I know that our patrol deputies are needing more support. And that stays in the forefront of my mind," said Sheriff Garcia.

It's a turnaround from a year ago when the sheriff said he could chop more than one-tenth of his allowance. Then it was $425 million, and it was slashed to $376 million. That's a cut of $49 million. But that is apparently as low as he can go.

"We are as tight as we can possibly be at this point. So I will not be proposing a budget with any layoffs, furloughs of any sort," Sheriff Garcia said.

As for this upcoming budget year, the sheriff says he doesn't have a proposed number yet because he can't lose a dime of what he has. The department is trying to cut where it can by greatly reducing overtime, by utilizing more than 200 reserve deputies to fill the gaps in a department that's 300 deputies short of what it needs and by trying new technology.

It's about to begin a pilot program using electronic monitoring anklets to free up space in the crowded jail.

"This is tremendous technology and we should avail ourselves of it," said Major Mike Smith of the Harris County Detention Bureau.

So while the county might be in a pinch with fewer resources than it needs, it may not see any relief from its largest expense.

The sheriff also announced today that he is adding another 24 reserve deputies. They'll be officially welcomed this weekend after a full year of training. The sheriff estimates the reserve program saves the department $3.5 million a year.