Clay County Sheriff's Department budget up for debate

LIBERTY, Mo. - The Clay County Sheriff says his department is facing cuts at a time when its services are needed most. But county commissioners have a very different story.

"They have significantly cut my budget and I think that's going to impact our ability to protect the public," Sheriff Paul Vescovo said.

He said the department will lose $569,000 after cuts were handed down Jan. 30 by commissioners.

"I thought we would get a little more support for public safety from the county commission," Vescovo said.

But the county commission has a different version of events. Commissioner LuAnn Ridgeway said the department is actually gaining money.

"The 2012 budget as adopted as $17.307 million. Yet the 2013 budget as adopted is $17.640 million," Ridgeway said.

The Clay County Auditor's report reflects Vescovo's numbers. Ridgeway said she doesn't know why there's such a big discrepancy.

"The people who have been in the budgetary business here in the county for years stand solid on these numbers," Ridgeway said.

Vescovo is standing his ground. He said crime is up 13 percent in rural parts of Clay County, so he needs more officers on patrol. Vescovo said the new budget will only allow for one new officer, while he would like six.

Ridgeway said that's not true. She said Missouri statute allows the sheriff to spend the department's money basically at his discretion, and that if he wanted the additional officers, he could have them.

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