Most city leaders against cutting sheriff's budget

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August 22, 2006

The Richmond County Sheriff's Department is already hurting from a deputy shortage, and now a plan for next year's budget calls for cutting more officers.

In the budget proposal drafted by city administrator Fred Russell, everyone gets hit pretty hard.

Cutting more law enforcement would save a lot of money...but as the sheriff told News 12, it'll cost more in terms of safety.

With a department already 40 officers short, you might understand why Sheriff Ronnie Strength is concerned about a proposal that calls for cutting more law enforcement.

"Well it would be devastating for the department, but that's not the big thing," he said. "The big thing is how will it affect public safety in the community."

To save $1.5 million, Russell has proposed cutting 25 positions from the sheriff's department and half a million dollars from the total operating budget.

"Crime is increasing every year," Sheriff Strength said. "Cutting manpower again would just cripple us."

The sheriff says the office has been chopped before during bad budget times, but they were able to make cuts with minimal effects.

He says any more cuts would be costly to safety.

That's why Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver isn't supporting the plan.

"I could not support a cut to law enforcement at this point in time," Copenhaver said. "We've got some public safety issues in this community that we need to deal with, and the sheriff needs all the men he can get. "

"Crime is there, crime is going to increase, and I don't believe we would have one commissioner that would vote in favor of taking law enforcement officers off of the street," Sheriff Strength said.

News 12 spoke with most of the city leaders, and none are in favor of cutting any law enforcement. Neither, in fact, is Fred Russell...but he says he was told to come up with $6 million in cuts, and this was part of it.