Legislators Deny Transfer of Funds for Sheriff’s Dept. Overtime

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The Putnam County Legislature made a statement last week when it denied a request by Sheriff Robert Langley Jr. to move more than $121,000 from various equipment and administrative budget items in the sheriff’s department budget to the personnel line to cover road patrol overtime.

During a Dec. 3 meeting, Legislator Ginny Nacerino, R-Patterson, called the transfer request by Langley, a Democrat, “concerning on multiple levels.”

“Monies will be transferred over 40 different budget codes originally allocated for various purposes,” she explained, questioning whether those lines were overinflated in the first place if they have so much left over.

Legislator Carl Albano, R-Carmel, said the problem boils down to improper planning on the part of the sheriff. “You should have an idea of where the budget is going, and be in the ballpark,” he said.

Legislator Nancy Montgomery of Philipstown, the only Democrat on the board, said legislators should not be shocked at Langley’s request.

“I believe (in 2018) the sheriff was told no new hires, and I believe then he warned that there would be this deficit in 2019,” she said. “It is in our best interest for public safety to vote ‘yes’ on this because we did not give him the resources he needed to hire new people.”

Legislator Paul Jonke, R-Southeast, disagreed.

“This is not a public safety issue, this is respect for our taxpayers issue,” he said. “You don’t spend money that you don’t have.”

Legislator Amy Sayegh, R-Mahopac Falls, said that when the county transfers money that was intended for one purpose to fulfil another line item, then the budget process is not transparent.

“It is understood that we need to pay our deputies for their service and their overtime (that) they deserve to be paid,” she said. However, Sayegh questioned why there is an abundance of money left over that was meant for uniforms, books, postage, paper, and other equipment and materials.

“If you don’t need that much money in those lines, why is it budgeted (as such), just to play this shell game at the end of the year?” she asked.

Nacerino agreed.

“I cannot, in good faith, approve 40 lines being transferred to road patrol when none of those monies was incombered for that purpose,” she said. “There is something wrong with that formula.”

The fund transfer was denied with a 7-1 vote, with Montgomery voting “yes” and Legislator Neal Sullivan, R-Carmel, absent.

Following the vote, Langley commended legislator for publicly questioning the proposed budget transfers, “as they should with all county departments,” he said. “Their role is to discuss through the individual committees and full Board of Legislature approval of the budgets of all county departments.”

However, Langley noted that budget are “estimates” created in the fall of the year preceding the next calendar year, and as such, money is often moved “because no department can determine unanticipated costs a month or a year in advance,” he said. “That is why, traditionally, money is and has always been transferred between budget lines in Putnam County not only at the end of year, but throughout the entire year.”

The sheriff said he held off purchasing various budgeted items until the end of the year to make sure money was available to purchase them.

“This is the reason I requested to transfer some money for purchases and did not purchase other items, instead choosing to transfer other funds to patrol overtime, which has been substantially underfunded for many years,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Legislature has denied the transfer of these funds even though the Legislature approved similar transfers in 2018.”

According to Langley, his office renegotiated the daily housing rate the Putnam County Sheriff Department charges the U.S. Marshall’s Service to board-in prisoners by generating an estimated additional $350,000 in revenue.

“This rate was established in 1992 and not renegotiated since,” he said. “Moreover, our Civil Division increased its revenue by over 60 percent in 2019 by updating its policies and procedures to be consistent with existing laws.”

This should result in no increase to taxes, according to the sheriff.

Since the road patrol overtime has already been paid, Finance Commissioner William Carlin explained that at year’s end he will likely move money from various county departments and line items to rectify that account.

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