Gov’s new budget returns rural crime funding

A hard-earned fight with the governor and miserly state
legislators paid off for the San Benito County Sheriff’s Department
to the tune of $500,000 when the governor reinstated funding for
crime prevention in rural counties in his budget revise earlier
this month.
Hollister – A hard-earned fight with the governor and miserly state legislators paid off for the San Benito County Sheriff’s Department to the tune of $500,000 when the governor reinstated funding for crime prevention in rural counties in his budget revise earlier this month.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut the funding from his original proposed budget as a way to cut costs, but reinstated the $18.5 million that will pad 37 sheriff’s department’s budgets throughout the state.

The $500,000 San Benito’s department will receive through the Rural County Crime Prevention Act – which funded a second south county deputy position, a correctional officer and a school resource officer last year – will again fund those staff positions in 2005-2006, Hill said.

While Hill was confident Schwarzenegger would reinstate the critical funding in the annual May revision of the state budget, Hill would have had to lay off deputies and freeze the south county deputy position if the money wasn’t budgeted back in, he said.

But with the money slated for the sheriff’s budget, the department can afford the approximately $170,000 to fund the three positions, he said.

“Most (of the funding) will go toward staffing. That’s what the major focus of that state money is intended for,” Hill said. “It’s for sheriffs to use where the rubber really meets the road – for personnel.”

Hill said as a member of the California State Sheriff’s Association, he was active in fighting at the state level to keep the crucial funding, but expects that he’ll have to fight the same battle every year.

When the funding was first given to rural departments three years ago, it was supposed to be an annual allowance. However, it was taken away in 2003-2004 because the state couldn’t afford it. It was also cut from the 2004-2005 budget but was signed back in in a last minute act.

“The big piece is will it be ongoing, consistent, or will we have to fight for it?” Hill said.

But it’s money worth fighting for.

Last year Hill also used the money to buy Taser stun guns for his entire department, implement a diversity program in an attempt to keep all employees abreast of the changing demographics within the community and to commission a study to determine the logistics of building a new sheriff’s office.

As of now, Hill doesn’t know how he will spend $330,000 remaining in the account, he said.

Erin Musgrave covers public safety for the Free Lance. Reach her at 637-5566, ext. 336 or [email protected].com

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