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Dallas County Commissioners Continue To Debate Budget Deficit

By Bud Gillett, CBS 11 News
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas County Commissioners continued Tuesday to try and find a way to cut a projected $33 million out of next year’s budget to cover a deficit.

At Tuesday’s budget meeting, they explored the possibility of merging or eliminating some of the duties of warrant squads in the Sheriff’s department and constables’ offices. Sheriff Lupe Valdez warned the commissioners that  her department gets 300 new criminal warrants daily.

One after another, constables and the sheriff made their case that taking criminals off the street through warrant arrests needs special consideration. Sheriff officials want these in a separate category, removed from drivers license renewals or other county functions.

“So it’s a matter of public safety,” said Precinct 4 Deputy Chief Constable Charles Bailey, who warned if their ranks are thinned that, “the crime rate is definitely going to go up.”

Raw numbers can be staggering. There are currently 150,000 outstanding felony and misdemeanor warrants in Dallas County, not including defendants who are already caught and their warrants not cleared.

“We have 55,000 people on probation in Dallas County,” for both misdemeanors and felonies, said Jeff Arnold, manager of court services for the county’s Community Supervision and Corrections Department.

Commissioners explored merging some warrant duties currently shared by both the sheriff’s department and constables, which would cut a dozen employees. Playing worst case scenarios did not provide pleasant alternatives for County Judge Clay Jenkins.

“When we start cutting these positions, we are going to backlog up warrants,” he said.

While some commissioners suggest making cuts surgically – department-by-department – County Judge John Wiley Price thinks all employees should share the pain.

“It’s a 5 percent pay cut if we don’t dismiss any employees. Five percent pay cut? That’s $15 million,” of the $33-million in the deficit at this time, he said.

Price predicts that a five percent pay cut across-the-board would bring the county halfway home.

“I’m for five percent and all of us share the pain, right off the bat. So, let’s just talk about that,” he said, adding that he’s “not willing to compromise public safety.”

“And I don’t think any of my colleagues are saying that– how do we shift? We’re just trying to get what we consider to be the best production,” he said.

The court must pass a budget by Sept. 30.

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