Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco began his budget presentation to the county legislature as the rows behind him filled up with sheriff’s chiefs and deputies, town and village police chiefs, law enforcement officers and former Sheriff James Kralik. He asked legislators to consider more than just mandated services but also to look at maintaining essential services that contribute to public safety and quality of life in the county.
Legislative Budget & Finance Committee Chair Ilan Schoenberger began the budget review on Monday by stating that the proposed 2013 budget cut staffing in the Sheriff’s Department staffing by eight patrol officers, one patrol sergeant, nine cooks and one food service helper. The proposal put forward by County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef estimated savings of $1,167,121.
Falco noted if the positions were abolished, the savings would be less because employees with more seniority can bump people with less time on the job.
“That number is going to be lower than what’s on this paper,” said Falco.
The sheriff said he met with the county executive’s staff in July to go over the budget and he thought everything was set until he was told in late September that $3.5 million needed to be cut. The cuts identified by the county executive include the Sheriff’s Mounted Unit and the food service staff that supplies meals for county jail inmates. Vanderhoef recommended hiring an outside firm to prepare the meals.
The mounted unit is not ceremonial, Falco insisted. He said it is rotated every weekend from April through November between the villages of Nyack, Spring Valley and Haverstraw and is assigned to parades and football games. He said maintenance of the mounted unit breaks down to $8.50 per Rockland household a year
Falco said the food service provides about 1,000 meals daily. The jail can house 305 prisoners and averages 243 inmates who receive three meals each day. The food service costs $418,000 for 10 positions and $400,000 for food. His staff is working on an internal analysis of food service costs and Falco asked for a chance to finish that report in January before any action is taken.
“We have to restore what they took out of the jail which is the kitchen,” said Falco. “We have to feed those inmates.”
He said the food service workers are in the CSEA, which has a new contract with the county while the patrol officers’ union has not reached a new agreement with the county.
Schoenberger said since food would still have to be bought and prepared to feed the prisoners, the service would be not be eliminated but replaced by an outside firm and that in his mind violated the CSEA contract.
Several legislators voiced support of Falco’s request to restore the funds. District Attorney Thomas Zugibe and Piermont Police Chief Michael O’Shea, who is also the president of the county police chiefs association, also spoke in favor of Falco’s request for reinstatement of the funds.
Falco spoke at length about the millions the sheriff’s department brought to the county through asset forfeiture and how that money has offset costs for equipment replacement and repairs that the county would have typically covered.
The legislature holds a public hearing on the proposed 2013 budget tonight at 7 p.m.
Here is what's been discussed so far during this budget process:
- Proposed County Budget—Public Safety Concerns (Highway Department)
- Proposed County Highway Layoffs May Reduce Service
- Legislature Debates Cuts In General Services