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Trumbull sheriff set to exceed budget

Commissioners slot $10M in ARP funds for department

WARREN — The Trumbull County Sheriff’s Department is expected to be $2.37 million over budget this year, but the board of commissioners planned for this in April.

The information was revealed as commissioners go through the county budget process for 2023.

All three commissioners voted in favor of a resolution on April 27 to earmark $10 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds for the general fund for revenue loss allocation, such as the gap in the sheriff’s budget. This is allowable under ARPA and the U.S. Treasury issued a ruling that up to $10 million can be used for this purpose.

“Law enforcement and the jail are expensive departments and the cost to fund varies year-to-year,” Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said. “It’s easy to sit here and say, ‘They are over budget,’ but not take into account how we arrived there.”

Sheriff Paul Monroe attributed the budget overruns during 2022 to “the cost of everything we do is going up.”

Monroe cited the gasoline costs for patroling 637 square miles as a major factor, as well as inflation making the cost of deputy uniforms and other accessories more expensive. Also, any additions to the vehicle fleet has gone up an average of $8,000 per vehicle.

The big contracts, wages for deputies being renegotiated, and the food service and medical care at the jail also have seen increases, Monroe said.

“To properly run a law enforcement operation, you have to fund it,” Monroe said.

Another factor that has hurt his budget has been the lack of revenue coming into his office through fees from foreclosures and gun permits.

“The COVID pandemic had put a moratorium on foreclosures in the county while the recent state law has eliminated the need for conceal-and-carry permits,” he said.

Monroe said Trumbull County has historically been one of the lower-ranked counties in the state in terms of tax dollars collected.

Another factor adding to the 2022 budget shortfall is the upgrade of the office’s computers for making electronic files in an effort to go “paperless.” Monroe said for 2023, he has put aside any capital improvements.

“There are things that we have needed since I took office (in 2017), like money for body cameras and resurfacing the floors of the jail, but we are not asking for anything special; just enough to keep the doors open,” the sheriff said.

Monroe said the present staffing level is short by 11 deputies and about seven or eight corrections officers. Cantalamessa said this shortage leads to overtime, which also is expensive for the county.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Niki Frenchko said she would not vote to have any ARPA funding cover any budget shortfalls in the sheriff’s office.

“ARPA money should be used for meaningful transformative projects that will have an impact on future generations, not to cover budgetary gaps for elected officials who can’t financially plan and won’t cut fat,” she said.

Cantalamessa said the commissioners receive monthly budget updates and he had not previously heard of any concern another member of the board had with the sheriff department’s budget. He said if someone wanted to pose another solution, it should have been brought up months ago.

At the end of the year, Cantalamessa said the sheriff’s budget will not be in the red because the county has the money to bridge the gap.

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