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The Virginia Sheriffs’ Association is opposing the governor's budget proposal, which calls for sheriffs and staff to pay 5 percent on their retirement, provided that the locality grants a 3 percent salary increase.
Grayson Sheriff Richard Vaughan — who serves as the Region I board of directors representative for the sheriffs' association — said Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan will ultimately decrease the take-home pay of the already underfunded deputy sheriffs and support staff, and reduce the public safety budget for sheriffs by $13.4 million.
“In some cases, the reductions will place deputies near federal poverty levels,” he said.
The governor's proposed budget widens a disparity between deputy sheriffs and state law enforcement officers, who recently received a 3 percent bonus.
The plan also provides a $13.4 million hole in sheriffs’ operating budgets. Vaughan said that if the General Assembly does not fund this deficit, then sheriffs’ budgets will be reduced accordingly, resulting in the layoff of 376 deputies “and impacting the safety and security of the citizens of our community.”
On Jan. 6, Vaughan delivered a presentation to legislators at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, asking them to reject the governor’s proposals. There were 58 sheriffs and deputy sheriffs from throughout Southwest Virginia at the hearing to support Vaughan’s presentation.
“Grayson County citizens have been taxed enough and we cannot sit back and allow the state to decrease our funding,” Vaughan said in a press release last week. “These are serious budget issues that deeply impact every community in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Cutting law enforcement budgets seems like it's becoming an annual tradition for the state, said Carroll County Sheriff Warren Manning, reacting to the proposal.
Last year at budget time, his department was faced with the possibility of losing three deputies. This year, the loss would amount to two positions, he said.
"I don't know how many cuts we can handle. We're not going to keep a full force on the clock with all these cuts."
Manning managed to hang on to all deputy positions last year, but only because he used proceeds from fines collected from special traffic enforcement on Interstate 77.
The state pays for deputies, but Carroll County has been receiving less money for that, Manning said. The amount state officials have been sending keeps getting scaled back.
So far, Manning said he has gotten by without asking the county supervisors to dedicate more taxpayer dollars to the sheriff's office budget.
The cuts continue to mount, so Manning said he could foresee a day when seeking extra financial assistance from the county may become necessary.
The Virginia Sheriffs’ Association is asking concerned citizens to contact their local members of the Virginia General Assembly and ask them to reject the 5 percent retirement pay option and to provide the $13.4 million that was not provided in the proposed operating budget.
“The state continues to decrease funding to localities, which in turn puts a burden on local taxpayers,” Vaughan said.