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Is County Council willing to spend money to save it?

Proposed Sheriff's finance director could earn as much as $63,623 a year

Friday, March 1, 2013 - 12:01 am

Sometimes you've got to spend money to make money – or save it.

At least that's the theory behind a proposal to pay someone up to $63,623 a year to oversee the finances of the Allen County Sheriff's Department – a department that only a few months ago was scolded by Allen County Council members for failing to make the desired budget cuts.

“(Council) suggested it and they're going to have to fund it,” Chief Deputy Dave Gladieux said of the new finance director position that will be considered by the council's three-member personnel committee next week. “No more of this, 'If you want it, you're going to have to find the money to pay for it.' We're done playing that game.”

Committee member Darren Vogt believes the full council will approve the new job despite its reluctance to add employees in times of economic uncertainty because “They're police, but they have a $20 million budget. The hope is that eventually it will save money. I'll be interested to hear the details.”

Council's desire to curb the Sheriff Department's spending was on full display during September's budget hearings, when instead of the requested across-the-board cut of 2.3 percent Sheriff Ken Fries requested about $1.6 million more than originally allocated. Fries argues that uncontrollable costs such as health care for jail inmates made the proposed cut impossible, and council eventually relented and gave Fries an additional $827,000.

But council also called for increased professional scrutiny of Fries' budget. Although the department does employ civilians to manage the books, Vogt and Gladieux said the new position would add new expertise and a broader vision.

“It would be nice to have someone with a CPA to come in and make sure we're doing everything right, and to go before council,” Gladieux said. Sheriff Department officials are currently meeting regularly with County Auditor Tera Klutz to seek potential savings.

The salary range would begin at $48,859.

But cost-cutting would not be the finance director's only job, Gladieux said. The employee would also seek grants and other opportunities to generate income. Just last week, for example, the county commissioners approved an annual $50 fee for sex offenders living here. The money would help cover the cost of maintaining the county's registry of sex offenders.

If the new position is approved and helps improve the department's efficiency, other positions could be eliminated through attrition, Gladieux added.