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Sheriff’s office gets $600K federal grant for more deputies

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office is receiving over $600,000 in additional funding in a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The 2020 Community Oriented Policing Service Hiring Program provides the county $625,000 in federal funds over a three-year period. The county is required to provide a cash match of $514,699.

 Sandoval County Division of Finance Director Cassandra Herrera was able to work the matching funds into the budget by getting credit for buying equipment for the sheriff’s office, using gross receipts taxes. An unexpected amount of about $400,000 from gross receipts taxes went toward the equipment said, Republican Chairman Dave Heil, District 4.

The county may use the COPS Hiring Program to:

• Hire officers;

• Rehire officers who have been laid off; and

• Retain officers scheduled to be laid off on a specific date due to budget reductions.

In a unanimous vote on Thursday night, Sandoval County Commissioners approved the grant.

Sheriff Jesse James Casaus said Sandoval County residents should be proud of the commission.

“This is what bipartisanship should look like,” he said.

According to a report by the sheriff’s office, deputies received about 30,000 calls for service in 2018-19.

Fully staffed, the sheriff’s office would have 26 deputies and six sergeants. The grant allows the department to create five new positions.

Currently, the office has 21 deputies and six sergeants.

The sheriff’s office patrols approximately 1,516 miles of roads, according to the report. With about 140,000 people in the Sandoval County, Republican Commissioner Jay Block, District 2, is advocating for more manpower, he said.

“We are the fastest-growing county in the state, and obviously when you have hundreds and thousands of people moving into the county year by year, that stresses the system, and you are going to have to have more manpower in the sheriff’s office to cover public safety,” Block said.

A county sheriff’s goal was to increase manpower in 2019, according to the report. However, the department is down five deputies, said Undersheriff Joe Gonzales.

According to the report, in unincorporated areas of Sandoval County, there were about 150 cases of violent crime and about 30 cases of non-violent crime in 2019, according to the report.

“As you all know, my district represents a significant part of unincorporated areas of Sandoval County and I am incredibly aware of a need for additional officers, and I know we have been understaffed in the sheriff’s office for some time,” said Democrat Commissioner Katherine Bruch, District 1. “Public safety is paramount and funding for health and safety for our residents is always one of my No. 1 priorities, if not my No. 1 priority.”

Final budget

County commissioners unanimously approved the final budget for the fiscal year 2020-21.

There is a $500,000 cushion left after budgeted expenses.

“I think that we have budgeted conservatively, but if we did any more, it would impact our offices,” Herrera said. “So I think we are about where we can be.”

She predicts a property-tax revenue loss of about $1.7 million.

There are about $5 million of unfunded capital projects not in the budget, she said. Depending on how much money comes in from property taxes, Herrera would like to revisit funding for these projects in January.

“I am optimistic; I do hope things do turn out that everybody is back to work and people can afford to pay their property taxes, but right now, it is just an unknown,” she said.

The next Sandoval County Commission meeting on Aug. 6 at 6 p.m. will be available to live stream under the “meeting videos” tab at sandovalcountynm.gov.

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