Harper County Commission considering county wide budget cuts

ANTHONY, Kan. (KSNW) – Budget cuts could happen next year for all departments across the board in Harper County.

County commissioners say during a tough financial climate they are looking at ways they can save.

But, the sheriff’s office in Anthony is worried about the impact of another budget cut

“By reducing a deputy, the workload didn’t reduce itself accordingly,” says Undersheriff Tom Burns.

Since the Harper County Sheriff’s Office cut a deputy position in January, Undersheriff Tom Burns says, like many other law enforcement agencies, they’re understaffed

“To make up for that less people are going to have to work more hours,” says Burns.

A deputy is on call and in the field 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Usually, one works the morning-afternoon shift and another works the evening shift. It used to be two on the evening shift.

Now, with the potential of more budget cuts coming in the next fiscal year, he and the sheriff are worried they’ll have to cut a position, they say, they simply can’t do without: A detention deputy.

“Right now we only have one person working. If you cut a position, we don’t have enough people to always have one person in there,” says Burns.

Justin Carey was on shift today. He is one of five detention deputies the sheriff’s office has.

More often than not, it’s one detention deputy per shift.

“It gets a little stressful,” says Carey.

On most days Carey is dealing with 17-22 inmates, by himself. He and the undersheriff say all it takes is a little bit of chaos in the jail to prove just how short-staffed the sheriff’s office is. They say if a fight breaks out in a jail cell, the detention deputy must call in at least one more deputy in before he or she can enter the cell and break the fight up. Often times it is a deputy on the street who is called in. They say you never know how long it will take the deputy to get there, and it also leaves them shorthanded in the field.

But county commissioners say this is a difficult economic climate, and they have to do something. That’s why they’re considering a five percent budget cut for all departments in the county for the upcoming year.

Harper County Commissioner Brian Waldschmidt says the budget cuts would be an attempt to make sure property taxes aren’t raised on residents for the upcoming year. He says they want to save the taxpayers money.

Burns says, it’s like no matter what happens, more cuts would have an impact on every person working at the sheriff’s office.

“If we have to cut one more time, we are not going to have somebody out on the streets 24 hours a day,” says Burns.


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