MCTA Analysis of the Sheriff’s Department

 

The Martin County Taxpayers Association periodically looks at budgets from different agencies throughout the county and other government bodies. This article will examine the Sheriff’s Department.

As a constitutional officer, Sheriff Snyder is elected by every voter in Martin County. The funding for his office, as well as the other constitutional offices (property appraiser, supervisor of elections, tax collector, and clerk), uses the county budget process. Sheriffs submit their budgets in accordance with Chapter 30 of the Florida Statutes.

Martin County Sheriff’s DepartmentIf the county commission changes the budget (except for Scribner-type errors such as mathematical or spelling mistakes), then the sheriff has the right to appeal to an administrative panel in Tallahassee. Overwhelmingly, the panel sides with the sheriff’s budget.

 

This information is important because county commissions are loath to reject sheriff requests. Politically speaking, the county sheriff must win an election and therefore has independent support that other departments under commission control do not have.

The sheriff’s budget is broken into three parts. Law enforcement, corrections, and judicial. The largest by far is the law enforcement piece with a 2022 budget of $55,297,277. The running of the county jail costs $19,954,132 and the bailiffs in the courts and other protective measures are $3,689,108. The department’s total budget is $78,940,517. The entire county budget is $526,490,922 for 2022.

From 2016 to 2022, the sheriff’s budget has increased from $59,736,755 or 32%. Population in Martin County has increased from 158,325 in 2016 to 161,516 in 2021. In 2016 there were 388 FTEs (Full Time Equivalents) in the law enforcement division, 152 in corrections, and 26 guarding the judicial system. In 2022 there were 427 in law enforcement, 150 in corrections, and 25 in the courts. Law enforcement saw a rise of 39 FTEs. There was one FTE per 408 residents in 2016 and one FTE per 378 residents in 2022.

Crime rates have continued to drop or remain stable in Martin County from 2016 through the last available year reported (2019). We also must remember that the City of Stuart and Town of Sewall’s Point have their own police forces. Every taxpayer, regardless of where he/she lives, pays for the sheriff’s department. Most calls for service are handled in those two municipalities by their own law-enforcement departments. We did not look at accident or other road calls that are handled by the sheriff.

It is our opinion that the sheriff’s department is utilizing taxpayer dollars efficiently. Martin County is a low-crime county, and our citizens are safe from much of the crime problems we hear about in the news. We are not qualified to speak to the effectiveness of any policy or program. That must be analyzed by others.

One complaint that we do have, and we have heard from others, is their lack of openness to records requests. Too often, the requests go unanswered, or the amount charged to fill the request is extraordinarily high when compared to other entities.

We believe that we have met the point where every additional dollar that is requested must be looked at thoroughly before being appropriated. We are already very well protected, and the law of diminishing returns should be very much on taxpayers’ minds if the budget increases except for inflation.

Sheriff’s Office Website: https://www.mcsofl.org

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