Dukes County Sheriff Michael McCormack, who last week borrowed money from the county treasury to pay his staff, will receive temporary relief in the coming week from state-issued emergency monies. The sheriff will see additional aid when Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signs his supplemental budget.
The Massachusetts house and senate approved the budget Wednesday, which includes $10 million for county sheriffs. Governor Patrick is expected to sign the budget today.
“By the end of the day, everything will be resolved,” said Sheriff McCormack, who has been locked in a budget battle with state administrators for months and has stopped paying bills because he has run out of money.
Earlier this winter Governor Patrick announced a plan for a state takeover of the seven county sheriffs who still operate independently of the state. The plan was a response to repeated concerns from county sheriffs, Sheriff McCormack included, over funding for their annual budgets.
Sheriff McCormack initially opposed the plan. But after he received a letter from the state in April announcing he would receive no supplementary funding, he changed his position.
The governor’s plan is intended to bring transparency to an under-scrutinized budget process for the sheriffs.
Sheriff McCormack’s annual budget runs around $3.3 million. The proposed budget for the coming fiscal year is projected to be $3.6 million. Funding comes from three sources: town assessments, deeds excise taxes and state appropriations. The various sources create a department with no real oversight.
Powers & Sullivan, a certified public accounting firm in Wakefield, conducts audits for Dukes County. County treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders said the audits include partial information on the sheriff’s department; she said a more complete audit is conducted by the state.
Calls to various state departments this week proved otherwise.
“There are no audits as such of Dukes County,” said Bill Meehan of the Division of Local Services, a Massachusetts agency within the Department of Revenue which conducts audits.
“This other so called state audit? You got me. There are no state audits of the Dukes County sheriff’s department,” he said.
On April 30, the sheriff stopped paying bills and last week he borrowed from the county to meet payroll.
On Wednesday, the state county government finance review board granted him $101,754 in emergency funding.
He will use the money to repay the money borrowed from the county treasury.
Meanwhile, Sheriff McCormack said the $10 million appropriation approved this week is not enough.
He said a representative from the executive office of administration and finance told him that the governor will issue a second supplementary budget which will provide the sheriffs with an additional $15 million.
“We may be fairly close to what we need,” Sheriff McCormack said.
But in exchange for the money they need, it appears the county sheriffs will become state agencies. Sheriff McCormack said the tradeoff is worth it.
“I think the budget process was really broken. It didn’t work,” he said. “Here we are on May 22 and I really don’t know how much money I have for the rest of the fiscal year. When you think about that and the stress it puts on your employees, not knowing if they’re going to get their next paycheck, it’s just tremendous.”