By Tamas Mondovics
The Hillsborough County Board of County Commission has little more than three months to finalize next year’s budget, which includes the consideration of a 1.8 percent FY15 increase request by Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee.
Gee made his case last month in his letter to the Board, requesting the $383 million in Countywide and Unincorporated Area General Funds (compared to last year’s $376 million) along with an additional $2.8 million in Special Revenue Funds, stating that the request was developed in a fiscally conservative manner addressing the needs and demands of the constituents served and protected by his office.
“I believe it is imperative the citizens of Hillsborough County continue to receive the highest level of law enforcement, detention and court services possible,” said Gee, who is responsible for managing the tenth largest suburban law enforcement agency in the nation, which currently utilizes more than 4,000 employees to get the job done.
Pointing to some of the specific expenditures essential to his office’s effective daily operation, Gee mentioned the necessity of requesting new deputy positions or pay raises—which he has not done since 2007—purchasing vehicles, covering the increasing cost of fuel, coupled with a number of large scale maintenance projects at its various facilities, such as those at the Orient Road jail, as well as a number of Information Technology projects.
“Law enforcement continuously faces the challenges of keeping up with technological advancements and the manner in which crimes are committed,” Gee said. “The sophistication of these changes requires advanced technology to combat these issues as well as a skilled workforce.”
While the increased cost of daily operation merits the attention, the most relevant portion of Gee’s budget request has more to do with reminding the BOCC of HCSO’s success of reducing crime rate within the County’s borders and what it takes to sustain such results.
Making continued use of Intelligence Led Policing, HCSO has maintained a steady decline of crime rate reaching the 51 percent mark over the past seven years.
In 2013, there were approximately 22 crimes committed per 1,000 residents compared to 45 per 1,000 in 2006. Since the same year, HCSO has reported the decrease of violent crimes by 63 percent.
What makes the numbers even more impressive is HCSO’s deputy-to-citizen staffing ratio, which in 2013 was 1.4 deputies per 1,000 residents, compared to the national average of 2.4 officers per 1,000 residents. Locally the Tampa Police Department has 2.8 officers per 1,000 residents.
“Our deputies are doing more with less, while we are also approaching a critical point where it will be necessary to ensure appropriate staffing levels,” Gee said.
While Gee reminded the BOCC of its success of bringing new business into the County, referring to the Amazon Distribution Center, Bass Pro Shops and USAA, he urged the Board to consider the impact such company giants on the community, local traffic and HCSO’s already strained resources.
Last September, the Hillsborough County BOCC approved its FY 14-15 budget, totaling $3.38 billion.
For more information about the Sheriff’s Office, visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.