Jul 4, 2014 6:18 PM by Andy Koen
PUEBLO - As deputies move into the new Pueblo County Judicial Building this month to secure that facility ahead of an August opening, Sheriff Kirk Taylor is speaking out about suggested budget cuts that could force him to lay off employees next year.
Taylor said he has told the County Commissioners since 2009 about his need for 23 new employees to staff the building. In April the board agreed to give him the money for 14.
"They're taking away our tunnel which we utilize on a daily basis to haul prisoners to court,"
Taylor explained. "Were now having to transport prisoners by vehicle so that becomes very man-power intensive."
As those recruits began 16 weeks of mandatory training, the sheriff like all county department heads was asked to submit a budget for next year assuming a five percent cut.
"The number that they've proposed for my 2015 budget, when you take out all the nuances in regard to the line items, I would literally have to layoff 20 people," Taylor explained.
Commissioner Terry Hart says county finances are looking better, but money is still tight and they've tapped into saving too much in recent years.
"We've got to go through this process and find a way to balance this budget and first of all, quit relying on our reserves to balance our budget because they're depleting," Hart said. "They're going to run out sooner or later."
The county will have a little extra money in their coffers thanks to fees and taxes collected from marijuana business. However, Hart says that only goes so far.
"The marijuana income is to the tune of thousands of dollars - and that's a good thing - but the budget balancing concerns that we have are more in line with concerns to the tune of millions of dollars."
He points the budget revenue assumptions are preliminary and could improve by December.
The new judicial building will also house the intake area for the Pueblo County Jail. Taylor says the new design will modernize detention procedures in Pueblo and potentially lower the number of back-and-forth trips to the jail.