Fact check: Sheriff’s campaign budget claims don’t add up

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In a news release printed in the Oct. 4 Clay County Leader, Sheriff Kenny Lemons states that the Clay County Sheriff’s Office has been under budget during all four years of his term, but according to actual expenditures reported by the county, the CCSO was over budget in two of those years.

The article, as well as political advertising, also states that the CCSO closed Fiscal Year 2012 $169,622.81 under budget. While the CCSO will return the amount to the county’s general fund, more than $70,000 will go to reimburse purchases made for the sheriff’s office from the general fund.

According to the Clay County Appraisal District, $169,622 is equal to 2.42 cents per $100 dollars in value of the county’s effective tax rate.

The sheriff’s department budget has grown by $347,712.16 — an increase of 24 percent — since Lemons took office on Jan. 1, 2009. The CCSO had a budget of $1.45 million in fiscal year 2009. In September, Clay County Commissioners approved a sheriff’s office budget of $1.79 million for fiscal year 2013.

In addition, the sheriff’s budget has been heavily subsidized by the county’s general and emergency funds, according to Clay County Commissioner’s Court minutes.

In 2010 Lemons was over budget by $8,177.22. The overage came after commissioners moved $50,000 to the CCSO budget from the county’s emergency reserve to help cover a shortfall for payment of relief deputies. After budgeting $100,000 for payment of relief deputies, the sheriff’s office almost doubled the amount, spending $191,932.50. The remainder of the amount owed was pulled from other areas in the sheriff’s budget.

In 2011, the CCSO was over budget by $25,841.67. In January 2011, 10 computer hard drives at a cost of $7,000 where purchased for the CCSO from the general fund.

In March 2011, commissioners’ court minutes indicate that $5,220 was moved from the county’s general fund to the CCSO budget for the replacement of two toilet valves and to install new carpet in offices located in jail facility. Commissioners also moved $13,721.67 from the emergency reserve to cover overages in the sheriff’s office for vehicle insurance, vehicle maintenance and oil and gas.

In August 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor determined that the CCSO owed $37,429 to four employees who had accumulated more than 480 hours of overtime for a period from July 2009 through July 2011. The amount, which also included retirement and worker’s comp, came out of the CCSO budget for relief deputies.

During budget hearings for FY 2012, commissioners gave Lemons an incentive to stay under budget by taking away the sheriff’s office vehicle fund of $49,000. Commissioners stated during budget hearings that if Lemons could stay under budget, he would be allowed to buy two vehicles. If not, the money would be used to cover budget shortfalls. The CCSO purchased two Chevrolet SUVs in the 2012 budget year at a cost of $50,546.60.

Commissioners also moved approximately $20,000 from the general fund for computers in the sheriff’s office.

During the same budget hearings, Lemons asked for, and was granted, two new deputy positions. Lemons said that with the new deputies, the CCSO would see an immediate improvement to comp time. The positions were created when the 2012 budget went into effect Oct. 1, 2011. The two positions remained vacant until February, allowing the sheriff’s office to come in under budget in deputy salaries by $15,778.  The CCSO will add three full time positions in FY 2013 at a cost of $161,501.16.

The sheriff’s office finished fiscal year 2009 under budget $116,228.81, due in part to falling gas and oil prices. With gas prices nearing $4 per gallon in Sept. 2008, Sheriff Tim King budgeted $102,145 for gas and oil. After Lemons took over in Jan. 2009, gas prices fell and the sheriff’s office spent $47,978.61.

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Pioneer Sentinel

The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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