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Council votes for sheriff's budget, plus one extra position

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By Tris DeRoma

It was a tense but civil discussion Monday night as Los Alamos County Sheriff Marco Lucero addressed his budgetary needs for next year with the Los Alamos County Council. The council is currently reviewing the needs for each county department, and is also considering extra requests each department has made as it gets ready to adopt a county budget for fiscal year 2018. 

Last year, council voted to transfer many of the sheriff’s duties to the Los Alamos Police Department, and put a referendum out to residents on whether Los Alamos County needs a sheriff, since the town of Los Alamos and the county of Los Alamos are one in the same. 

Residents voted to keep the sheriff’s office, and Monday night, Lucero made that point clear.

Many of his “extra” requests had to do with putting back what the council took away last year. 

Among Lucero’s extra requests was a full-time “office specialist” at $58,911 a year, three part-time deputies at $29,565 a year and an undersheriff at $130,000 a year.

“The decrease of FY2017’s budget was due to the council transferring responsibilities to the police department during that fiscal year,” Lucero said to the council. “The budget of the sheriff’s office was cut from $85,411 to $15,510.”

With just over $250 left in his account for the next two months of the fiscal year, Lucero said this was unacceptable.

“This decrease significantly impacted the sheriff’s office and its ability to provide quality service to community of Los Alamos. Staff was terminated, duties were transferred and the sheriff’s office was brought to a point of not even being recognized by local Los Alamos County officials as being an elected office. After the November vote, the people chose to retain and have an elected sheriff and demanded that Los Alamos County Council recognize it support this elected office. I believe that it is the duty of all of us as elected officials to adhere to the will of the people and listen to what they’re saying.” 

During a brief discussion with county attorneys about his budget requests and a future resolution council may consider to restore at least some of those positions in the wake of the November vote, council opted to tentatively approve Lucero’s proposed $15,510 budget, with the option of giving him back a full-time office specialist sometime in the future, possibly June.

“I think a majority of these decisions are going to have to be made in June,” Councilor James Chrobocinski said. “I hope that we have a good, vigorous debate and can reach some resolution that all parties can feel good about. The sheriff can have what he needs, and the community will understand that we heard their voice and that the council will make a sound decision.” 

 

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Council voted 5-2 in favor.