Commissioners grant sheriff more budget autonomy
Measure intended to reduce red tape
Calvert’s Board of County Commissioners granted Sheriff Mike Evans’ (R) request for budget autonomy Tuesday, giving the sheriff’s office the authority to transfer funds up to $150,000, the threshold for a public hearing, without the board’s consent.
“You’re not looking for any change in the budget build process. You’re simply looking for more flexibility [in] executing dollars with less red tape,” Commissioners’ President Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) said, seeking understanding of the request, to which Evans said “yes.”
The sheriff will continue to participate in the county’s annual budget process by submitting a prioritized budget to include salaries and operating and capital outlay, but once the sheriff’s budget is received, reviewed and approved by the commissioners, he will have the ability to transfer funds and make expenditures autonomously.
Slaughenhoupt said the request is similar to the arrangement in place with the Calvert County Board of Education, which allows the board to transfer money among certain categories of funds.
“With the board of education, they have a limit of $25,000 that they can transfer between their categories. Anything over $25,000 comes to the board for your action,” County Administrator Terry Shannon said.
“We don’t want to transfer funds, let’s say, from salaries into capital outlay or vice versa, but if we are in our restricted budget and we need to, I don’t know, purchase something expensive that wasn’t budgeted for or unforeseen … we’d like the ability to do that,” said Assistant Sheriff Lt. Col. Dave McDowell, who initially requested the transfer via a memo.
Commissioner Steve Weems (R) was on board, but requested that it be within the defined guidelines and sought Shannon’s thoughts on the proposed process.
Shannon said there are cer- tain line items in a budget that are restricted, such as gasoline for vehicles, and things that are unrestricted line items.
“As long as they stay in within that grouping of unrestricted line items, there’s no issue,” Shannon said. “The restricted line items are usually there for in our general budget like utilities — things that you want to make sure you’re going to have that expense regardless. You want to make sure that money is there for that purpose.”
“That’s well understood and I believe we’ve demonstrated that responsibility in our [building] over the years,” McDowell said. “We know we need fuel for our cars and that there are certain things that can’t be touched and that’s not our intention at all.”
Commissioners’ Vice President Tom Hejl (R) was in favor of the initiative and recalled being assistant sheriff and having to go through a lot of red tape to make purchases.
“It hampered the process,” Hejl said, noting that a memo had to be drafted before getting permission. “You know what you need. You’re the people in the position to know what you need.”
“I’m going to say please be careful,” said Commissioner Pat Nutter (R), who is also a retired sheriff’s deputy, expressing a need for checks and balances and the desire to not leave the incoming board and county administrators and finance staff with new problems.
The motion to grant the authority was unanimously approved. Slaughenhoupt said the request is not a “slap” against the Department of Finance and Budget staff and that if it becomes a problem with a future sheriff, that autonomy can be undone.
Assistant Sheriff Lt. Col. Dave McDowell, left, and Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans (R) request up to $150,000 in transfer authority from the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.