From the Yuma County Commissioners (Scott Weaver, Adam Gates, Mike Leerar)
There have been many conversations circulating about the closure of the Yuma County Jail over the past several months, and as Commissioners we would like to set the record straight.
Yuma County citizens should know that your County Commissioners have made it very clear in all our meetings that we do not want to see the jail closed. Both the 2022 budget and the 2023 budgets that were presented to the Yuma County Commissioners by the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office were approved without any cuts to the proposals.
Recently, there has been a request from the Sheriff’s office to increase wages for the rest of 2023, even though the budget for 2023 was approved in December of 2022 and contained no indication of a possible increase. The Sheriff’s request for additional funding is close to $400,000, and it is virtually impossible to commit to an increase of this magnitude halfway through the year. These increases could have an even greater negative impact on the 2024 budget, as we do not know yet what the revenues will be expected for 2024. The Commissioners have started working on preparing the 2024 budget and the bulk of the work will take place in September of this year.
In April of this year the Commissioners did approve an increase in the starting wages for an intern patrol deputy to $22.68 per hour and once they have completed their FTO (Field Training Officer) and academy obligations their pay will be increased to $24 per hour. At the same time, we preliminarily approved a $1.32 per hour increase for the current patrol deputies beginning January 2024.
Several unusual factors will play a key role in what the County’s revenue and expenses will look like for 2024. State Proposition HH will be on the ballot in November and if does pass, it may have a profound negative impact on our revenue. On the expense side, Yuma County settled a lawsuit concerning the Sheriff’s office this year that is most likely going to impact our insurance policy premiums.
With the Sheriff’s office recent request for such a significant mid-year increase in his budget, we are unable to formulate a decision until November of this year once all the pieces of the budget come together.
The Commissioners have not tabled the fiscal discussions concerning the jail closure; to the contrary, we expect to come to a responsible decision in November when the 2024 budget picture is more in focus.
This decision is one that will need full collaboration from both the BOCC and the Sheriff’s office to find a workable solution that meets the needs of the community without compromising other services within the county.