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Osceola County sheriff takes issue with 2008-2009 preliminary budget

SIBLEY, Iowa -- Osceola County Sheriff Doug Weber is once again being shorted in his budget request for the upcoming year -- this time by more than $36,000.

The Osceola County Public Safety Commission (PSC) set the preliminary 2008-2009 budget at $922,425, a 5 percent increase from last year's budget of $878,500. Weber's proposed budget was for $958,800.

Just like last year, the discussion became heated at times, with Melvin, Iowa, mayor and PSC member Gary Benz accusing Weber of doing very little to help the monetary situation.

"There is one person not working within the group," Benz said to Weber. "You."

Benz said he would like to give the sheriff's office everything it needed, but the City of Melvin could not afford to give any more.

"I'll go along with what the majority thinks is good, but you take all the fun out of it," Benz added.

Weber pointed out that Melvin's share of the budget had only risen by $900 in 10 years, which didn't even cover cost of living increases.

"I don't appreciate you telling me I'm not doing anything," Weber said. "We have done a lot."

Weber reminded the PSC the sheriff's office had themselves raised the money to purchase new handguns and to support a K-9 drug dog.

"That has never been done before," he explained. "And we apply for every grant we can."

One commission member commented he found the fundraising efforts by the sheriff's office embarrassing because it looked as though the county and cities couldn't support their own sheriff's office.

Weber said he resented Benz's accusations of not helping and not "being fun."

"Do you think this is fun for me?" he asked.

Osceola County Supervisor Daryl Strenge, a PSC member, said the county had agreed to increase their share by 5 percent, providing the other entities did, too.

The representative from Ocheyedan, Iowa, said he was told to make an offer of a $2,000 increase.

As Weber listened to the various city representatives make offers, he became visibly upset.

"I feel like this is," he exclaimed. "Make an offer, and we'll see what we can do."

Weber explained that there was no "fluff" in his budget -- no extras, nothing that the department did not need.

"I have spent more time fighting for the existence of this department than fighting crime," he commented. "And fighting crime is my forte. I am a working sheriff."

The PSC approved the $922,425 budget, and a date for a public hearing on the matter was set for March 12.

After the meeting, Weber said he would remove the $36,000 somewhere from a line item in the budget, but it wouldn't matter, because if he had to spend it, he would.

"This is voo doo economics -- a smoke screen," he commented. "Not truth in budgeting."