The Dukes County Sheriff’s office expects to see a $620,000 shortfall this year.
The news comes just days after Sheriff Michael A. McCormack learned the state is refusing to send its annual supplementary funding for the county corrections facility.
On April 1, Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance Leslie Kirwan sent Sheriff McCormack a letter of notification. Supplementary funding from the state amounts to nearly 20 per cent of the sheriff’s annual budget.
The letter arrived amid an ongoing struggle between the seven county sheriffs who still operate independently from the state and Governor Deval Patrick, who has proposed a state takeover of the Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket, Bristol, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk sheriff departments.
The governor’s bill is now stalled on Beacon Hill.
But the argument apparently has not ended. In her letter, Ms. Kirwan said supplemental funding for the fiscal year 2008 will not be sent to Dukes County. “We cannot continue to provide supplemental funding without having more permanent solutions in place,” she wrote. Current fiscal pressures in the commonwealth were listed among reasons for the change.
Funding for the sheriff’s budget comes from three sources: town assessments, deeds excise taxes and state appropriations. In the current fiscal year, Dukes County contributed $505,000 to the sheriff’s $3 million budget. In fiscal year 2007, the sheriff collected $831,000 from deeds excise taxes. County treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders said the amount the sheriff will receive in deeds excise taxes for this fiscal year is not yet known. Without state funding, Sheriff McCormack estimated his budget for this fiscal year will fall $620,000 short.
Sheriff McCormack was off-Island this week and could not be reached for comment. Ms. Mavro Flanders, who did speak with the sheriff, said he plans to stop paying bills. “He can’t stop paying employees, so he’s going to stop paying bills,” she said. “We’ve done it before. Last year, we had over $70,000 in bills which just sat there until the [state] money came through.” The sheriff has scheduled a meeting with the state County Government Finance Review Board to discuss the letter.
Ms. Mavro Flanders, who is also acting county manager, presented the letter to the Dukes County Commission during their regular meeting Wednesday. “I find the letter really disturbing,” she said. “It is a serious financial problem for us and the sheriff.” Commissioner Roger Wey of Oak Bluffs did not seem so sure. “It’s just strong-arming is what it is,” he said.
In other business, the county commission on Wednesday approved a contract for the new county manager, Russell H. Smith of Aquinnah. The commission voted to appoint Mr. Smith on April 4. Mr. Smith is currently legislative liaison for Martha’s Vineyard and will begin as county manager on Monday, April 21. For six months, he will serve as a contracted employee for the county and will remain in his post as legislative liaison. In October, the county commission will review his performance. Subject to a positive review, he will continue on and in January 2009 will become a county employee with full benefits.
At that time, he will cease his work as legislative liaison. Until January, Mr. Smith will receive a weekly salary of $866, based on an annual rate of $45,000. After January, Mr. Smith would expect a starting salary of $60,000 a year.