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Jefferson County commissioner, sheriff trade barbs at budget meeting

April 03, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Jefferson County's budget process grew tense again Wednesday when Jefferson County Commission President Frances Morgan and Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober exchanged barbs over funding for the sheriff's department.

The commissioners have been struggling to come up with a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year after realizing they were facing about a $2 million funding shortfall.

The commissioners have looked at various cost-cutting scenarios, one of which was cutting funding to all county departments, elected officials and outside agencies by five percent.

Last week, sheriff's department officials said the proposed 5 percent cut would force them to leave two deputy positions in the department unfilled.

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Now, the commissioners are considering a 2.5 percent funding cut to the sheriff's department, which would force the sheriff's department to leave one deputy position unfilled.

During a budget meeting Wednesday afternoon at the Charles Town Library, Morgan noted how the sheriff's department received about $500,000 in increased funding between 2007 and 2008.

Boober said the money was needed to make deputy positions competitive.

"A 20 percent increase in one year. Remarkable," Morgan said.

Boober said Morgan obviously does not place much importance in providing for law enforcement.

"Your comments are entirely out of line, sir," said Morgan, explaining that she was only pointing out how generous the county has been to the sheriff's department.

"Now you're backtracking and saying you shouldn't have given it," Boober said.

"I don't appreciate the tone of your comments," Morgan said.

The commissioners are reducing their proposed 5 percent cut on county departments through a different plan, which they said will be up for discussion at today's regular commission meeting.

Other county departments, including the tax assessor's office and the county clerk's office, would see a 3 percent funding cut under the plan. The prosecuting attorneys office and the tax office would receive the same funding as the previous year and the circuit clerk's office would get a 2.5 percent funding cut.

The plan would also use a little more than $1 million in savings to balance the budget.

The meetings the commissioners have been having recently to hammer out a budget have been tense at times and Commissioner Rusty Morgan walked out of one of the meetings.

The budget was due to be filed with the state March 28, although the commissioners say there is no penalty for filing it later.

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