It's mandated by Augusta Commissioners...an across board 2.4 percent cut for all city departments. But, the Richmond County Sheriff's Office is telling the Commission...don't count on it.
"I agree with the Sheriff, I really agree. You can't take a department that big, the Sheriff's Office budget is half the county budget, it's half of it. You tell him to take 2.4 or 2.5 [percent] out of there...it's unreasonable," says Commissioner Marion Williams.
That's the message the Sheriff's Office is sending to city leaders in a letter from a local law firm representing the office.
The letter says the proposed cuts are unreasonable and that the Richmond County Sheriff's Office cannot implement the proposed reductions.
"With the cuts they are talking about, in addition to the cuts we already have, we would have to keep below strength - 65 deputies," says Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton.
"You would have to cut officers?" we asked Clayton. "Yes," he said.
Commissioner Grady Smith supports law enforcement, but he also supports the across the board cut, and says he would like to see the Sheriff coming before the Commission to discuss the cuts instead of sending a letter from his lawyers.
"It sends a message he's serious about what he's saying. This is one way to prove it, maybe this will bring us to the table. Now, let's get down to the cut and prioritize," said Smith.
According Sheriff Richard Roundtree's letter, under the Georgia Constitution, Commissioners have a duty to adequately fund the Sheriff's Office.
"The letter will tell them its inadequate funding to keep the community safe and secure," said Clayton.
"I think, if the Sheriff goes to court and tells the courts that we are not providing him with the money he needs, like every other sheriff, we're going to have to come up with the money," said Williams.
Chief Deputy Clayton says Sheriff Roundtree had some dental work done and is out of commission. I asked if the office was using the letter to send the Commission a message or be defiant. Clayton says Roundtree stands behind the letter.
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