The outpouring of support for local law enforcement was “out in force” on Tuesday as members of the community stepped forward to speak to commissioners.
Residents spoke against the Hays County Commissioners’ Court “defunding police” in the Fiscal Year 2021.
Many residents cited opposition to the Judge’s Recommended Budget which has reduced the majority of Hays County Law Enforcement agencies’ budgets for the upcoming year.
“I’m the wife of a Hays County Law Enforcement Officer for 27 years,” Kelly Puryear said. “It is time for us to take a stand for law enforcement. We do not want in Hays County what happened in Austin.”
Recently, the Austin City Council expressed intentions to cut 1/3 of Austin Police Department’s FY 2021 budget and ultimately voted to cut approximately $20 million immediately with approximately $130 million in two transitional funds.
Puryear claimed her husband, a deputy with the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, is currently driving a patrol vehicle with no lights, no siren, and over 160,000 miles on it.
“No one is proposing to defund law enforcement,” Judge Ruben Becerra said. “The budget didn’t do this, and the proposed budget doesn’t. The efforts [speakers] are being told about are maybe slightly skewed.”
The Hays County Judge’s Proposed budget includes $1.5 million for law enforcement salary increases and $715,000 for new positions at the expanded Hays County Jail.
However, it cuts $3 million from the jail’s inmate outsourcing budget. While the jail’s expansion will provide additional space and increase the jail’s overall capacity, officials have noted that outsourcing will have to continue.
According to data from Hays County Jail, on July 2, 145 of 245 inmates are in on priority violent crimes; the jail is currently housing 30 inmates on murder charges or convictions, 54 inmates on sexual offense charges or convictions, and 61 inmates on aggravated assault charges or convictions.
A number of the inmates are individuals who have been sentenced and are simply waiting to be transferred to state prison, said Hays County Jail Lieutenant J. Saenz.
Inmates can spend up to four or five years after conviction in county jails waiting to be transferred to state facilities.
Overall, the judge’s recommended budget proposes a reduction of 4% from the Sheriff’s Office FY 2020 Budget and a 15.6% reduction below the department’s requests.
The budget proposes providing less than half of the additional corrections officers needed to operate the new jail.
The Texas Jail Standards states “One jailer shall be provided on each floor of the facility where 10 or more inmates are housed, with no less than 1 jailer per 48 inmates or increment thereof on each floor for direct inmate supervision.”
However, the design of a jail and housing units brings adds additional staffing needs. The jail’s current housing units relies upon indirect supervision; inmates are inside their own housing pods while officers are stationed outside.
Captain Julie Villalpando said the new jail expansion’s layout has 192 beds, broken down into 4 pods of 48 beds each, in a direct supervision area.
According to Villalpando, to meet jail standards with the new layout, one officer is required to work inside the pod with the inmates, but the jail will also require “movement officers” who are in charge of transferring inmates between areas of the facility such as visitation, medical and attorney consultations.
During his brief presentation on the budget, Becerra noted he had removed all requests, except one for the Office of Emergency Services, for new or replacement vehicles.
As the vehicles experience more use and gain mileage, maintenance, and repair costs increase; officers are also required to spend hours with their vehicles idling to maintain power to their equipment.
Law enforcement typically tries to replace or purchase new vehicles after they’ve reached a certain mileage to balance costs on the county and maintain safety.
According to the Judge’s recommended budget, four of the county’s five Constable Offices were recommended to receive a 1% cut from their FY 2021 budget; this includes no funding for additional personnel.
Candy Holberg said law enforcement needs to be funded and not defunded or underfunded.
“We want them to have safe vehicles and equipment to carry out their jobs,” Holberg said. “They need vehicles that are adequate for high-speed chases, whatever they are up against. They need bulletproof vests which only last five years.”
The average lifespan of a bulletproof vest, or Kevlar vest, is five to seven years even if they are not used often.
“We can look all around our country,” Carl Aubrey said, “And we can see cities and states where [police defunding] has been implemented, and it’s chaos. There is no justice.”
The Hays County Commissioners Court will hold their third and final budget workshop tomorrow, August 25, at 10 AM.
The commissioners are slated to approve the budget in September and will make any amendments to the budget prior to approval.
Here are just a few of the cuts made…
- Cuts $3 million from inmate outsourcing in an attempt to prevent the holding of prisoners after arrest.
- Provides less than half the personnel needed to staff the new jail.
- While moving funding for some replacement bulletproof vests to an account for grant funding, completely defunds replacement of rifle resistant vests for the tactical teams which have expired.
- Cuts law enforcement Equipment Operating and Equipment Capitol from just over $376k in the current budget to zero in his proposal and completely defunding this year’s request of $615k.
- Of the current request for 48 replacement vehicles, zero are funded
- Funding for the jail is reduced by $856,290 from FY 2020 (current year) and $5,643,427 below the request for FY 2021
- Cuts overall Sheriff’s budget by 4% from the $45,551,704.00 provided in FY2020 to $43,707,359, which is $8,106,647 less (15.6% less) than the $51,814,006 request and $1,844,345 cut to the current budget.
- All Constable offices except 1 are cut from their current year budget. Cuts range from 1.4% to 12.2 %
- All constable offices requested at least one vehicle with the exception of one and none of them were funded.
- All constable offices requested to lease one new officer and none were provided.
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