Sheriff Babeu’s department to overspend by $1.6 million

| March 15 2012
Christopher Cook

From AZ Central:

Even after making deep cuts, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office is on track to overspend its budget by $1.6 million.

Accounting for the projected deficit are fuel costs, shift-differential pay, overtime pay and related expenses, administrative-leave pay, and retirement contributions, according to Sheriff Paul Babeu.

Babeu’s total budget is about $47 million.

Just like in states across the country, part of the debt is the result of increases negotiated by a union:

The county, meanwhile, would be on the hook to cover the remaining $656,000. About half that amount stems from changes implemented after the 2011-12 budget was set: a contract the Board of Supervisors signed with a deputy’s union and a slight increase in the retirement-contribution rate.

It is possible that there are mitigating details in that agreement, but an obvious question arises: Why, in these difficult economic times—where union pensions are driving an unsustainable unfunded liability that has almost every state in the union in the red—are we increasing retirement contribution rates anywhere?

Note also that in “The county, meanwhile, would be on the hook to cover the remaining $656,000,” “county” is a euphemism for “Arizona taxpayers,” who are, in many cases, struggling with shortfalls of their own.

Recall, also, that Rep. Paul Gosar issued a press release on the possible questionable uses of department funds for Babeu’s campaign for AZ-4:

“This is about an abuse of power, a misuse of public trust, and the continued use of official resources for personal and political gain,” said Congressman Gosar, on accusations that Babeu threatened his former Mexican boyfriend with deportation.

Gosar went on to note that “Babeu clearly believes that public funds, provided by hardworking taxpayers, are unlimited and interchangeable with campaign resources.  First, his campaign sent its news releases to the county website, where they remained posted for months. Last week, it was discovered that, while his office is over budget, he spent $35,000 on self promotional collectable coins and Centennial celebration badges. Today, in light of these new accusations, he hosted a campaign press conference, in uniform at the sheriff’s office, with sheriffs office employees, campaign staff and campaign volunteers intermingled.  It is as though he believes the rule of law does not apply to him.”

A budget shortfall, on its own, is difficult but common enough for officials. But for Pinal County Sheriff Babeu, it adds one more element to an already embattled public career.

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