Legislators continue to review police budget

MAYVILLE — Chautauqua County legislators recently reviewed amendments needed for the 2017 budget, while looking out for the 2018 budget at the same time.

Audit and Control Committee Chairman Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, said the committee is following up on issues that required amendments for last year. He said the committee asked for more information on the Sheriff’s Office’s budget revenues, which were short in a few areas. Also, there was a shortfall of retirements and the fluctuation of the jail population that impacted the Sheriff’s budget.

Chagnon said the Sheriff’s Office could not control those issues.

Late in 2016, after the 2017 budget had been passed, Chagnon said a contract extension was approved by the Legislature for the deputy sheriffs. However, it was not a unanimous vote. According to a previous article, the vote was 12 “yes” to 7 “no” votes. Chagnon said those who voted against it had “concerns” regarding the assumptions behind retirement and other figures that were presented at that time.

Without the retirement issue, Chagnon said the Sheriff’s Office’s budget would have been “very close” to what was forecasted.

Previously, Chagnon said he met with the county budget director, the Sheriff’s budget director and Sheriff’s Office officials to see the progress of how the budget was progressing. He said when suggestions were offered, they were carried out and the budget appeared to be running closer to what was planned for.

“I was expecting it to be close,” Chagnon said.

Chagnon said a budget has a lot of variables on the expense side. But, there is also a revenue side that is also worth looking at.

If a department acquires more revenue, they can spend more money, and if it loses revenue, the department has to cut back. However, in the case of the Sheriff’s Office’s, there were higher expenses and a lower revenue. In that scenario, Chagnon said it’s like a “double whammy.”

The County Fly Car System also came up in talks about the 2017 budget. Chagnon said there was a “significant” shortfall in the revenues for the County Fly Car System despite lower expenses than originally figured. That left a gap of about $255,000.

Chagnon said the committee spoke with County Emergency Services Director John Griffith regarding the matter. He said the committee will do an evaluation of what occurred in 2017 and will attempt to “mitigate those impacts” when it comes to the 2018 budget.

“What is done is done,” Chagnon said, “but that information can help (predict) what happens this year.”

Griffith, in a later interview, said the issue has to do with medical billing taking longer than expected, among other issues. He said the revenue expectation was not met for 2017, but the program started later than anticipated and some of what the fly car system does cannot be billed out.

However, Griffith said the system is working when it comes to its main purpose.

“It is saving lives,” he said.

Previously, with the decline of volunteers for volunteer fire companies, a person could call for an ambulance in some areas and could wait for up to 40 minutes. Griffith said, in his opinion, if someone in Chautauqua County calls for emergency medical services, a police officer or a firefighter, they should get the help they need in a timely fashion.