The Teton County Board of County Commissioners gave preliminary approval to stick with cuts to the Teton County Sheriff’s Office’s requested overtime budget Monday despite disagreement over how to fund speed patrols.
Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr originally agreed to the overtime cuts, asking that some of the funds be redirected to speed control.
But commission Chairwoman Natalia D. Macker, who proposed trimming the overtime budget, did not want to earmark funds for that purpose.
“I’m concerned about directing which law enforcement activities get priority through the budget,” Macker told the News&Guide after Monday’s meeting. “It’s a slippery slope. How do we decide which ones are the right ones? And what’s the process?”
Fellow commissioners ultimately agreed in a non-binding straw poll Monday to trim overtime without earmarking money for speed enforcement. Instead they asked the sheriff to continue speed patrols and come back later if more money is needed to fund them.
Macker initially proposed halving the overtime line items to reflect current staffing, suggesting less will be needed now that the dispatch center is fully staffed.
The center previously sucked up a significant amount of overtime as dispatchers covered staffing gaps. Carr lobbied for raises and, a few weeks ago, said the center was more or less staffed for the first time in recent memory.
The $150,000 overtime cut is set to come from the sheriff’s requested budgets for the Teton County Jail ($30,000), the sheriff’s operational budget ($90,000) and the sheriff’s communication budget ($32,500), which funds the 911 dispatch center.
Carr will still have $150,000 left over to spend on overtime.
Even with the hit, Carr’s budgets are set to increase roughly 7% year-over-year if the commission approves the spending plan the sheriff has laid out. The jump will be from $8 million or so in total across those three budgets to around $8.6 million.
That’s despite the commission’s request to departments and elected officials to keep budgets flat for the year.
In a previous meeting, Carr supported trimming the overtime amounts if they came with funds earmarked for speed enforcement. Although he didn’t get that Monday, he indicated the service would continue.
“What I really intend to do at this point is to utilize the overtime money that’s been allocated to my department and to focus as much effort as ... people power allows on speed enforcement,” he said. “If I need to come back to you in six months, I’ll do it.”
Tougher enforcement of speed limits has been a hot topic after a number of moose were killed on the West Bank last summer.
In the public outcry that followed the Sheriff’s Office received pass-through funding from the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation to patrol Highway 390, also known as Village Road.
But that program ended in January after Teton County and Prosecuting Attorney Erin Weisman raised questions about how the deputies were paid.
Carr still continued patrols primarily on county roads in April and May with other money in his budget.
He said Monday that his department had made over 150 stops between November and January on Highway 390, and 92 stops in April and May on the county road patrols. During both periods, he said, his department stopped a few people going 16 to 20 mph over the speed limit, made arrests for DUIs, and issued citations for possession of controlled substances and driving with no driver’s license or insurance.
Carr used those numbers to pitch the “need for that enforcement,” which he said was the “number one” subject of phone calls he receives from members of the community.