DuPage Sheriff John Zaruba says he's been forced to spend more money on overtime as a result of a county budget that slashed his department's head count.
County officials are projecting the sheriff's office to exceed its overtime budget by about $335,400 by the time DuPage's fiscal year ends on Dec. 1. The roughly $1.21 million originally set aside for overtime is expected to be depleted by September, officials said.
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But during a Tuesday discussion about next year's budget, Zaruba said the higher overtime costs are because he has eight fewer full-time employees to meet the department's growing workload. Zaruba had to eliminate those positions to cut spending in his office by about $1.5 million.
"This (county) board staffing reduction changed a balanced staffing plan into what is currently an every day balancing act," Zaruba said to members of the county board's judicial and public safety committee.
The department's authorized head count is set at 530. But when factoring in absences because of sick time, family maternity leave, disability leave and workers' compensation, Zaruba said, he has a daily average of 497 full-time employees to cover all the department's responsibilities.
"I think we've managed pretty darn well," said Zaruba, adding that he expects grant money or increased revenue from fees to pay for the overtime.
Zaruba said the ideal situation would be for the department to have 545 full-time employees. But he didn't formally request a head count adjustment on Tuesday.
He is asking the department's overtime budget be increased to $1.5 million for the 2014 fiscal year. The department's total budget request for 2014 is roughly $40.3 million.
Whether board members approve the requests remains to be seen. Because of time constrains, the judicial and public safety committee members weren't able to finish their Tuesday talk with Zaruba. A follow-up session is slated later this month.
One issue expected to get more attention during that meeting is whether the county should reduce the size of the sheriff's patrol division and pay local police departments to patrol unincorporated neighborhoods near their boundaries.
County board member Gary Grasso has said he believes municipal police departments could cover unincorporated pockets much more efficiently than the sheriff's department.
"You have to look at other areas in order to have cost savings," Grasso said on Tuesday.
But patrolling unincorporated areas is a statutory duty of the sheriff. And he's the only person who can give it up.
Zaruba, who has long opposed any plan to scale back his patrol division's duties, says it would cost taxpayers more money for the municipalities to patrol unincorporated areas.
"I'm not about to abrogate my responsibilities to the taxpayers and have them pay more money for something they're getting for a lot less money," he said. "It just doesn't make sense."