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Sheriff Knezovich Troubled by Budget Cuts

Dave Conner via Flickr
Proposed budget cuts would result in 14-person loss to sheriff's department.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is not happy that the Spokane county commissioners have decided to wait to ask voters for a tax increase and have decided to make budget cuts to all departments across the board.

State law allows the county commissioners to increase property taxes one percent per year. If they want even more, they are required to ask voters for approval.

Despite a lean budget, the commission has decided to wait another year before asking for what is called a levy lid lift. The commission reasons that they’re worried about the property tax increase residents will already see this year because of the legislature’s efforts to meet the school funding requirements of the McCleary Supreme court decision.

Now the commission is asking every department to take a 7.3 percent budget cut.

County sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says that big of a cut will decimate his department.

“[The proposed cut amounts to] $1.3 million dollars.  That means 12 deputy positions go away and I lose two patrol districts ‘cause that’s it. That’s all there is left. We used to have 18 property crimes detectives for the unincorporated area; I have seven now.”

Knezovich says these new cuts come even after his department lost a total of 30 officers during previous budget cuts in 2008 through 2010. He says a standard guideline for sheriff’s departments is 2.4 officers per 1000 population but right now his department is at .6 per 1000.

The sheriff says he was promised that the levy lid lift was going to be put on the ballot in 2015 by commissioners but they backed away from that idea.

Knezovich says, “I went to them [after I saw it wasn’t being put on the ballot and said] what are you doing? And [they said] you know it’s Shelly O’Quinn’s election next year, and there are rumblings that Matt Shea might run against her, and so we can’t put a tax on the ballot because it might hurt her in her next election.”

The Spokane Sheriff says he hoping the commission will take a look at another possible funding source.

Knezovich adds, “They have two-thenths of one percent sales tax that they could put in, solely for public safety. They haven’t. Were the only major county that has not tapped into that resource.”

The Sheriff also feels that the commission should reconsider the across-the-board cuts, and give his department a break, saying public safety should have priority over other departments.

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.