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Sheriff Frederick Upset With Budget Challenges, Staff Cuts

Sheriff Frederick Upset With  Budget Challenges, Staff Cuts Sheriff Frederick Upset With  Budget Challenges, Staff Cuts

 

Roosevelt County Sheriff Jason Frederick is concerned. Frederick says that due to budget cuts, the sheriff office will have two less deputies.

“We will no longer be able to run 24-hour coverage,” Frederick said.

He says the cuts will reduce the amount of sheriff office employees from 15 including Frederick to 13 employees. The office has also lost a jailer position.

He explained that he can’t afford to utilize officers that perform dayto- day operations such as drug investigations and change their duties to patrol.

“I can’t put them on patrol and let drugs go rabid,” Frederick said. “Basically, [the commissioners] tell me I’m being punished because I’ve spent my budget.”

One deputy resigned in June and that position apparently will not be filled.

“We aren’t defunding the police,” commissioner Gordon Oelkers said. “We support our guys on the ground to the fullest.”

The requested sheriff’s office budget for personal services was $1,585,900 for 2021-2022, and the final budget approved by commissioners was $1,384,520. The overall public safety budget was $3,757,038 in 2020-2021, and it is $3,687,930 for 2021-2022. Oelkers said the issue is a multi-layer problem.

Oelkers stressed, “We don’t tell the sheriff what to do and how to do it. He manages the budget.”

Commissioners note that they used $200,000 in CARES funds and another $50,000 from the general fund to backfill the sheriff’s office’s current budget. During the last five years, they say that $700,000 have been moved from the general fund to the sheriff’s budget.

“The sheriff’s budget is in big trouble and will be next year as well,” commissioner Duane Nygaard said. “And our new jail is nickel and diming us to death.”

The sheriff office’s budget finished the 2020-2021 fiscal year over spent by $33,000. County officials say it’s the first time in at least 40 years that Roosevelt County had an office overspend its budget. A shortage of cash reserves is part of the budget’s challenges.

“If you don’t overspend your budget, you should have reserves,” Oelkers said.

Frederick agrees that the county jail has been a challenge from a financial standpoint because when it was built, the plan was to charge the state for Department of Corrections prisoners. The state, however, changed policies and now doesn’t need to place prisoners in Wolf Point.

He noted a new contract between the county and Fort Peck Tribes regarding the detention center will result in the county receiving about $275,000 in additional funds.

“I bring in an extra $275,000 and I’m now losing three positions,” a frustrated Frederick said.

Dean Mahlum, who served as the Roosevelt County Sheriff from 19831987, said that if the county has two fewer deputies it would definitely be felt in the county.

“It will have a big impact especially to the eastern end, I would think,” Mahlum said. He feels the most rural areas would be affected the most. “Those are the ones that will receive the biggest hit.”

Mahlum expects scheduling deputies would be a challenge.

“My concern and worry will be that without as many deputies out there, the response time will slow down,” he said. “You still have to provide the coverage. You can’t say when the deputy comes on at 8 a.m., we will come to a crash.”

Frederick explained that salaries in his office have increased because elected officials keep giving themselves pay raises. The deputies’ salaries are based on the pay of the clerk and recorder.

He noted that a budget report in June shows the sheriff office’s salaries were under budget. Frederick said he didn’t hear any concerns from commissioners until a budget meeting about two weeks ago. County officials say department heads receive monthly budget reports.

“I asked them to show me where I wasted money. They haven’t been able to show me,” Frederick noted. “This is the fourth position on patrol that I’ve lost in five years and the second jailer.”

He said cash reserves cover police equipment such as vehicles and prices keep increasing there as well.

“[The commissioners] are more worried about me being in the green, than keeping the community safe,” Frederick said of the budget concerns.

Oelkers said, “We don’t cut personnel. We deal with budgets. How Jason spends it is up to him. We can’t tell him what to do with the money.”

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