With DuPage County police already in "maintenance mode," Sheriff John Zaruba warns that following through with a proposal to slash his department's annual budget by about $1.5 million would have negative consequences.
"There will be a reduction in services," Zaruba told members of the DuPage County Board's finance committee on Tuesday.
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His comments come nearly a month after county board Chairman Dan Cronin unveiled a proposed $431.8 million county budget for the 2013 fiscal year that includes cutting the sheriff's department's annual spending from roughly $40.7 million to about $39.2 million.
If approved in its current form, the budget plan would reduce the authorized full-time head count at the sheriff's office by eight positions to 530 employees.
But Zaruba said he would have to eliminate more than eight full-time positions to meet the target of reducing his annual payroll by about $830,000.
Right now, the department's authorized full-time head count is set at 538 employees. However, there is an allowance for seven additional deputies who are on disability or another type of leave, taking the total paid head count to 545 employees.
Zaruba said the proposed full-time head count of 530 doesn't account for the 15 deputies who are either on disability leave, on family maternity leave or receiving workers' compensation. At some point, some of those individuals are expected to return to work.
"What's proposed here in numbers and in reality is 530, period," Zaruba said.
Zaruba said public safety services were negatively impacted the last time his office's head count was at 530 in 2007.
"I'm anticipating issues right now based on past experience," he said.
Given the challenges his department is facing, Zaruba says he doesn't understand why anyone would want to reduce the number of deputies. While he must maintain required staffing levels in the jail and courthouse, calls for service are "back on the rise."
"I want to do my job for the citizens of DuPage County," he said. "I don't want to increase the liability."
Tom Cuculich, the county board's chief of staff, said the goal of the budget plan isn't to lay off anyone. Instead, the intention is to let eight positions go unfilled as deputies leave. Last year, the department had about 60 people depart through normal turnover.
But when a board member mentioned the department already has several positions that haven't been filled for a while, Zaruba responded: "There are no vacancies."
County board members have until Nov. 30 to approve a final draft of the budget. The county's fiscal year starts Dec. 1.