Earlier this month the Klamath County Commissioners returned $776,539.69 of unspent funds from the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office 2018-2019 budget to the road reserve fund, which has been funding patrol for the law enforcement agency for the past several years.
Although not all of the returned funds were savings from patrol specifically, Commissioner Donnie Boyd said they broke from the tradition of returning unspent money from the sheriff’s office to the county’s general fund and returned the entire savings to the diminishing road fund.
“We decided it needs to go back to where it came from, which was road reserves,” he said.
Last year the sheriff’s office received about $1.8 million from the road fund for patrols “because the citizens want us to have a more robust sheriff’s department,” Boyd said.
About $300,000 of that savings was personnel savings, Sheriff Chris Kaber said, due to positions the department is still working to fill. Kaber said they budgeted to fill the positions, which he said is a tough task due to the KCSO competing with other departments across the state to recruit new deputies. The fact that the positions remain empty accounted for the largest savings in any single category of KCSO’s budget from the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
Approximately $500,000 came from savings in the rest of the budget categories, and revenue above that budgeted from services such as issuing concealed handgun licenses. Kaber said the department had leftover money in every budget category and didn’t go over budget in any category.
Boyd said the money was returned to the budget this month because an auditor just finished his audit of the last budget cycle.
“The commissioners, along with the sheriff and his staff, have been working very carefully to try to send money back to the road reserves, so we were expecting money. Not this much,” Boyd said.
Despite coming in under budget for the past several years, Kaber said they approach every budget cycle like they will use every penny. Still he said, “if we spend less, that’s a good thing.”
As for this budget cycle, approaching halfway through, Kaber said he anticipates more savings as they’re on course to end the cycle under budget again. He also anticipates being fully staffed by the end of this budget cycle.
Although the sheriff’s office has been operating under budget, Boyd said that does not signal a solution to the department’s funding woes and that it will continue to rely on the dwindling road funds to provide patrols until a solution is found.
“We are still going to have to find an alternative funding source for our sheriff’s department,” Boyd said.