Facing an 11.3-million dollar drop in revenue, Harris County Commissioners are finding it a challenge to do more with less. Sheriff Adrian Garcia went before Commissioners, armed with a study that showed the county can save 3-million dollars a year, if it hired part-time jail medical staffers that presently work for private contractors.
Garcia’s budget for the Sheriff’s Department is over 392-million dollars, but is 5-percent less than what he spent last fiscal year.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says the Sheriff’s Department gets the biggest allotment of the county’s 1.23-billion dollar budget:
“There’s no question, and we have to come up, we have to get the jail population under control. That’s why I’m spending almost a day or two a week in Austin talking about continuing to fund mental health services, so that we keep those people out of the jail, because it cost a lot more to deal with them in the jail than it does through MHMRA or organizations like that.”
Even though Commissioners lifted a 20-month hiring freeze, Judge Emmett says Sheriff Garcia must still go before the Court to approve creation and funding of new employment positions.
“I was not a fan of the hiring freeze all year, but it doesn’t do any good to go back and say, ‘Well, we should have done this.’ What we have to do is where do we go from here and as I said, we need to give the budget to elected officials, give them the parameters of what personnel slots they have, and then let them run their business. And they’re answerable to the voters.”
Emmett has directed county Management Services to study Garcia’s request and will make recommendations for Commissioners to consider at their next meeting.