To balance their 2011 budget, Mesa County is asking all departments to cut a total of $12 million collectively. And the Mesa County Sheriff's Office is cutting the most.
"It certainly makes staff nervous," Sheriff Stan Hilkey said. "There's no doubt about it."
In response to the county's cuts, sheriff's office staff members are on edge and worried for their jobs. "This is a lean department to begin with, and what we're talking about now is becoming more lean," Hilkey said.
County Commissioner Craig Meis knows the decisions will be tough. "Our revenues continue to drop, which makes this necessary."
But the cuts mean layoffs for Hilkey, and it's uncharted territory as far as he is concerned. "This is the first time that I've ever been involved in layoffs and I've worked for the county for 25 years."
After eliminating $1.1 million in 2009, $565,000 in 2010, and a projected $700,000 in 2011 in operating costs, Sheriff Hilkey says it was the only choice. "There's really no where left to go except for personnel to achieve the goal."
So here's how it breaks down. Seven people will be demoted, 27 people will be laid off, reducing the workforce by 10%.
The sheriff's office is communicating the news to those affected. There was no information available as to what specific divisions within the law enforcement agency would lose staff.
But, if there's any silver lining in this plan, it's this. Between current vacancies and attrition, the sheriff's office will have 12 jobs available.
"We'll go back to the people that are in that layoff list, and seek their interest in some of those vacancies," Hilkey said.
And that makes a net loss of 15 jobs versus the 27 first expected. Still, though, Sheriff Hilkey says losing 15 or 27 will probably impact the services you're used to.
"I think it would be way [too] premature for me to say that I'm comfortable, I'm not, he said. "But the sheriff's office is part of the larger county budget and we're doing everything we can to make a difference, to get the county through this time."
The sheriff tells us the county originally asked the his office to cut $3.4 million. But after seeing the impact it would have on the community, commissioners ok'd the scaled back $2 million plan.
As far as how the other county departments are concerned, officials tell us they're still waiting on the final plans. They hope to know more in the next few weeks.