To the Editor:
Russ Jergens is a candidate for Palo Alto County Sheriff on the Independent ticket. Mr. Jergens has circulated a letter to voters in this county describing areas where the current Sheriff's Office has fallen short, in his opinion. In a previous public article, he described one of the areas as the "spiraling budget."
When Mr. Jergens left office in 2004 his budget was $942,000. Eight (8) years later I have submitted a budget of $1,377,500 - an increase of 46.2%. And, yes, that is a lot of money! Breaking that down though, you will find in that 8 year increase, close to $298,000 was in employee wages and benefits, or 31.55% of the total increase for that time frame. The Deputies, Communication Center, and Jail belong to an Employee bargaining unit. The Board of Supervisors sign off on their wages and benefits. THE SHERIFF HAS NO WEIGHT OR STRENGTH IN THAT DECISION. I do believe the Supervisors have done an exceptional job in keeping that figure as low as possible.
The next area in the budget includes everyday items such as utilities, vehicle fuel, prisoner food, medical, telephone, etc. This is an area where the cost is controlled completely by today's economics. (As an example, the average price of gasoline was $1.46/gallon in 2004.) There has been a $55,000 increase comparing the exact same items from Mr. Jergens' last year to the present budget. This is a 6% increase in 8 years. Add these budget items together, and we are now at over 37 % of the overall 46.2 % increase in the budget.
The final area is somewhat unknown. It concerns things that pop up which are totally unscheduled, such as vehicle and equipment maintenance, inmate health costs, etc. That figure is 8.8%, or an average of $10,400 per year. THIS FIGURE IS THE ONLY ONE THAT BELONGS TO THE SHERIFF. It is true the Sheriff has to put all these figures together in a workable budget form so he can operate a full year. It does take a lot of thought and time, but this is exactly how it lays out. It is easy for an opponent to throw out huge figures and use them as scare tactics, but as you can see, there is no mystery or excessive frills plugged into the budget.
The last financial item I want to discuss is revenue. When Mr. Jergens left office he was bringing in approximately $140,000 per year in revenue to the general fund. Mr. Jergens speaks of programs a lot, but our programs 8 years later are bringing into the general fund $225,700 per year. That is $85,700 more per year!
Now I would like to bring you up to date on the grants we have applied for and received. The jail is 104 years old, and the Communications Center needed updated badly to keep in step with technology. The Sheriff's Office to date has received over $275,000 in grants. This money was applied to the aging infrastructure of the jail, giving it many more years of life. The State of Iowa takes the Lions share of cell phone 911 money leaving us with dwindling landline money to update our emergency system. The grants we have received have allowed Palo Alto County to stay strong and healthy, AT NO COST TO THE TAXPAYER.
All of the figures quoted in this letter can be verified and are on file at the Palo Alto County Auditors Office.
Thank you, (signed) Dennis J. Goeders
Sheriff, Palo Alto County