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June 23, 2021

Board curtails cut to sheriff’s office

San Benito County supervisors approved a temporary due pass for the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office operations budget during the second day of budget hearings Tuesday. The supervisors had originally been looking at cutting the budget by $230,000 by eliminating two deputy sheriff positions in order to balance part of a $1.7 million deficit remaining in the county budget.
The supervisors began the budget hearings on Monday by reviewing three alternative plans to making the remaining cuts to the budget. At that meeting, they had all agreed to move forward under the assumption that they would not cut the district attorney or probation departments’ budgets, but would cut $230,000 from the sheriff’s department. The remaining $1.47 million would come out of the rest of the county departments’ budgets based on how much of the general fund they receive.
But as the supervisors began talking with department heads about their needs, Sheriff Darren Thompson persuaded supervisors to cut only $30,000 from his budget rather than the full $230,000.
Supervisors Robert Rivas, Margie Barrios and Jaime De La Cruz voted for the smaller cut, while Supervisors Jerry Muenzer and Anthony Botelho supported cutting the sheriff’s operation budget by $130,000.
During the discussion, Supervisor Robert Rivas asked what measures the sheriff could take to lower the cost of overtime pay.
“Certain types are unavoidable,” he said. “If an officer stops someone a half hour before the end of their shift and it’s a DUI, they will need to work a few hours” to complete the arrest and paperwork.
He added that they also need to pay overtime if there is a jury trial or a third courtroom is open, as a bailiff needs to be called in on a day off. He said if someone who works the night shift has to testify in court it would require overtime. Thompson said some types of overtime are reimbursable, but others come out of the general fund.
Thompson said if his staff were to be cut by two more positions, it would make it difficult to avoid overtime because he does have a Deputy Sheriff’s Association mandate to have two sworn officers on duty at all times.
“What happens if somebody is absent?” he said, adding that he would have to call in another sworn officer for an extra shift. “I don’t see a way to navigate that.”
De La Cruz suggested calling in the lowest-paid officers to work overtime. Thompson said the bargaining unit’s contract calls for the highest seniority officers to be offered overtime first. He said those with seniority do sometimes turn it down so that lower-paid officers receive the hours.
Muenzer said his biggest concern was if the supervisors agreed to cut the sheriff’s operation budget by $30,000 instead of $230,000, the supervisors would need to take the additional dollars from other departments.
“It is really all about priorities,” Barrios said. “Each one is important to us – everything from administration down to public safety and libraries. Where do we feel the community needs to get the services so that they suffer the least? They are all going to suffer.”
Barrios said when she spent time thinking about the services families would notice most, she said it would be in an emergency situation.
“That’s a lot harder than if they come to an office and wouldn’t be able to get assistance for a few minutes,” she said. “I think that’s what I need to consider. What is going to affect what the community holds most important and more valuable?”

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