8 new sheriff's deputies in proposed Fresno County budget

The Fresno BeeJune 10, 2014 

Margaret Mims

SPECIAL TO THE BEE

Fresno County supervisors plan to add eight new deputies to the payroll in the county's budget when the spending plan is finalized Thursday.

But it will be at least a few months before they start work. By consensus, supervisors on Tuesday chose to delay some proposed hires -- most of which are in the public defender's office and probation department along with some in public works and planning -- until Oct. 1 instead of July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

RELATED: Fresno County proposed 2014-15 budget

By postponing the new hires for three months, supervisors can save salaries and benefits. That savings, about $753,000, will pay for the eight new deputies and eight new vehicles over the remainder of the fiscal year.

Sheriff Margaret Mims will have to chip in about $25,000 from her $89 million general fund budget to help pay for the new deputies. Under the original county spending plan, Mims was adding four jobs: a lieutenant, a sergeant and two deputies.

With the 12 additional positions, the sheriff's office will grow to 1,065. In 2007-08, the sheriff's office had about 1,200 positions.?

John Navarrette, county administrative officer, said many of the new hires won't be on the payroll until Oct. 1, even under the best-case scenario.

"It permits those departments to go forward with their positions so they can start recruitment immediately," he said. "It's going to take time for them to complete their recruitment and interview process, so by the time they get enrolled in payroll we'll be at the end of the first quarter."

Board Chairman Andreas Borgeas was encouraged by the proposed solution.

"I think that is a very smart way of making certain that we get additional deputy sheriffs with additional vehicles ... while still getting all of the resources in other departments," he said.

Mims was also pleased by the supervisors' plans.

"We're headed in the right direction," she said. "This is the first time we've added personnel from the general fund in a few years now."

The Sheriff's Office has hiring lists that it can use, but the new deputies probably won't be on duty until early next year, she said.

New deputies will improve morale, Mims said.

"It shows progress and it gives deputies out there hope that there is going to be some help out there," she said.

Mims had asked for 10 new deputies and 10 new patrol cruisers during Monday's budget hearings. She also said patrol vehicles need replacement, with 57 vehicles exceeding more than 150,000 miles.

In addition, she said, the Sheriff's Office needs to replace 15 four-wheel-drive trucks at a cost of $750,000. The sheriff does not have a vehicle-replacement fund -- but supervisors said they will start one. Supervisors will consider later this year how to underwrite that fund.

The sheriff said the fund will allow the county to put away money a bit at a time to pay for new vehicles.

"We had money for cars in prior budgets, but we used that money to save deputy sheriffs' jobs," Mims said.

Supervisors are expected to finalize the county's $2.05 billion budget Thursday morning. They can propose changes on Thursday, but that would push final approval into next week, Navarrette said.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, mbenjamin@fresnobee.com or @marcbenjamin on Twitter.

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