JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — In early April, the Jefferson County Manager’s Office instructed the sheriff to reduce his office’s 2020 budget by 7 percent, which equates to $6.7 million, according to the sheriff’s office.
This cut could force the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office to reduce its jail’s capacity by 400 to 600 beds, the sheriff's office said. It also would eliminate the U.S. Marshal contract for jail beds, which would be a loss of $1.8 million. It’d also keep job vacancies open to reduce personnel costs.
Sheriff Jeff Shrader said it is imperative that the county prioritizes its cuts, instead of pursuing across-the-board cuts. These cuts to the sheriff’s office could have a significant effect on public safety, he said. He explained his concerns to the Board of County Commissioners at an April 23 presentation, and offered to help find a suitable solution to address 2020’s budget deficit in the county, according to the sheriff's office.
At the start of 2019, Jefferson County also implemented a new policy that charges termination pay-outs back to the affected department, while taking vacancy savings from that department. This has resulted in an additional impact of $1.3 million to the sheriff’s office budget.
Combined with this newly announced 7 percent cut and the loss of the U.S. Marshal contract, the sheriff’s office said it is facing a 2020 budget decrease of almost $10 million.
Julie Story, public affairs director with Jefferson County, said the cuts affect every office, department and division across the county.
"With our revenue caps in place, our budget data indicates that we will need to cut $16.1 million dollars in the next year to maintain our reserve and not go into a deficit," according to a statement from the county. "We are working to maintain a healthy, appropriate reserve fund, but because of the growth and increased property values, under TABOR, the county is collecting more revenue than it can keep."
This loss has a direct impact on the level and quality of services that the county can provide to its residents, Story said.
"From 2015–2019, JeffCo hit the TABOR cap every year, leaving a total of $111 million on the table — dollars that the county could have reinvested in roads, bridges, public safety, facilities’ repair, mental health and other areas that maintain our quality of life and well-being."
Budget meetings are open to the public and the county is working on new tools to get feedback from Jefferson County residents. A telephone town hall is scheduled for May 8. For more information, visit the county's website.