An Examination of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office 2014 Budget
Guest Post: Sally Mann
Sheriff Chapman has implied on his Facebook page, in the Washington Post and in public forums that although he was forced to revise his 2013 budget, he has since “returned” that extra $4.3+ Million he was given by our Board in 2013; and he suggests he has used increased efficiency and better management to lower costs in order to “return” these $4 million. The County’s reconciled budgets do not agree.
It is well known that in 2013, Sheriff Chapman got into trouble with the Loudoun Board of Supervisors for not abiding by his adopted budget, as described by various news stories at the time. The Sheriff’s Office adopted budget in 2013 had to be “revised” upwards with an infusion of $4.3+ million.
In reviewing “savings” in the 2014 budgets, is important to understand that in 2014, the Board of Supervisors changed its “vacancy savings” policy for all agencies, intentionally over funding all salaries and benefits, but expecting savings to be returned. In years past, the Board had withheld a vacancy savings from all agency budgets (except the Sheriff’s Office, who got special treatment in 2013) based on the statistical estimation of an 8% employee turnover rate for each agency, and a 3% routine savings in unpaid salary, benefits, etc. This action in 2014 to fund 100 percent of salaries and benefits (knowing 100% was not necessary) removed the special treatment the Sheriff’s Office had gotten the year before, when vacancy savings were not withheld from the Sheriff’s budget.
Changing the vacancy savings policy allowed the Board to give the Sheriff’s Office in 2013 and all of its agencies in 2014 a few million extra dollars, more flexibility in spending, and made expected “vacancy savings’ easily applied to other expenses. It also allowed the Sheriff ~or any agency~ to deliberately leave positions vacant for political budget cover, not have the boots on the ground required for public safety as expected by taxpayers, and spend the vacancy “savings” on other budget over runs.
A close look at the FY14 reconciled budget shows: first, the original adopted budget had to be revised upwards by about a Million dollars ~ demonstrating an expected shortfall. Second, salaries that were not used due to employee turn over amounted to $2,280,150.47 while overtime pay (time and ½ pay) continued to soar, reflecting an inefficient use of funds. Further savings resulting from vacancies and turn over were benefits that did not need to be paid out, such as FICA, retirement, health insurance, life insurance, long term disability, etc. These savings approximated another $800,000. Vacancy savings for unspent salaries and benefits plus the $1 million “revision” in the LCSO budget add up to more than $4 million.
When we also consider that the Sheriff had access to funds other than in the budget, use of at least $396,479.22 PY Fund balance… it becomes clear that he overspent his expected spending in 2014, and did not actually “save” anything.
Lots of other details in the 2014 budget will give a flavor of how the numbers are manipulated. For example, the Sheriff’s office paid $200,000 less in taxes than they requested in their budget ~ how could they not know the exact number for the amount of taxes they would pay? Little items that no one would pay attention to drew my attention, like the category of laundry, and housekeeping, where the adopted budget asked for $193,058, then in the revised budget the Sheriff wanted $210,838.06 but he only ended up spending $120,166.17? Courthouse security also resulted in approximately $200,000 unspent? The original budget asked for $2,203,162 for replacement of minor machinery, and then it was revised upwards (because you would assume they found a need) to $2,795,077.80 but then the Sheriff spent less than the original requested amount.
Did the Sheriff ask for more in these categories, padding expenses, intending to over spend on things like uniforms, knowing the Board would not question taxes or courthouse security, but they would question hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on new uniforms (when the old ones were in fine shape)?
In the end, Mr. Chapman has not returned any money due to efficiencies in his management. Any suggestion that he has adopted efficiencies to “save” 4 million dollars is simply a deception and not supported by the real facts. The truth is that Mr. Chapman has not been able to manage without manipulating numbers every year ~ even when his adopted budgets needed to be revised upwards.