Spokane County commissioners gave Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich $128,223 from reserves Tuesday – about one-third of the amount he requested for equipment and software.
Knezovich requested $372,631 last week, but commissioners balked. This week, he pared the total to $257,121, but commissioners lopped off a couple of items they didn’t consider essential for officer safety.
Commissioner Mark Richard voted to not supplement the sheriff’s budget at all.
“We’ve done the best that we can, but it’s as far as I’m prepared to go at this time,” Richard said.
He noted he had already voted to take $726,724 from reserves to prevent the layoff of eight deputies.
Knezovich said last week that commissioners told him in December that he could recover unspent money from his 2010 budget, but Richard said this week that he promised only to “do all that I can.”
Commissioner Al French, who took office in January, proposed giving Knezovich money for Tasers, beanbag shotguns and bulletproof vests but not for software and car-mounted traffic-ticket-printing equipment.
Commissioner Todd Mielke supported that approach.
All three commissioners expressed concern that continued dipping into reserves could reduce the county’s bond rating.
Now about 9.5 percent of the general fund, Spokane County’s reserves are at the low end of the range for same-rated counties, bond attorney Roy Koegen told commissioners.
A bond firm reported that a one-notch reduction could add about $2 million to the cost of a $100 million, 20-year bond measure. A proposed jail project could cost nearly $200 million.
Knezovich didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting but said afterward that he was particularly frustrated that commissioners denied $110,000 for software to identify crime hot spots quickly.
“That was a software program to help us be more efficient with less manpower,” Knezovich said. “That was critical for us.”
He requested a second software program last week for internal affairs investigations, but now expects drug forfeitures to cover that $30,000 expense.
The money commissioners allocated Tuesday will provide 88 Tasers, 22 beanbag shotguns and $21,116 to replace bulletproof vests that are guaranteed only for five years.
Knezovich said he has only 50 Tasers, some of which may need to be replaced, and he wants each of his 120 patrol officers to have one. He said sharing Tasers from shift to shift proved impractical because of the need to keep records on their use.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.