Sheriff Robert Pepersack will find himself on the hot seat tonight when he goes before the County Council to ask for enough money to cover a $200,000 budget shortfall.
This is the second consecutive yearin which Pepersack has overrun his budget. He blames the overrun on the county, which, he said, did not subsidize the department adequately.
Last year, Pepersack received a last-minute transfer of $90,000 from the council.
But this year, the council, which has made a point of opposing 11th-hour transfers, is in no mood to help the sheriff again. None of the seven council members has indicated a willingness to grant the sheriff's request.
"My gut feeling is that he's not going to get everything he's asking for, if he gets anything at all," said Councilman George Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat.
The sheriff's office provides courtroom security, prisoner transport and service of legal papers.
The transfer bill, submitted by County Executive Robert R. Neall, asks that $204,700 be moved from a contingency fund to the sheriff's budget.
Overtime accounts for $105,660, or most of the deficit.
Undersheriff Patrick Ogle explained in a memo that county funding was based on calculations that assumed 6.5 courts would be in session each day. However, the county paid for only five full-time deputies to guard the courts. In addition, an average of eight courts have been held daily, resulting in severe understaffing.
Sick leave, delayed hirings, holidays and out-of-county prisoner transfers also caused overtime spending, Ogle wrote.
But Neall and county budget analysts suspect that the sheriff unnecessarily incurred some overtime by providing security for the Board of Education, during demonstrations outside the State House and at the annual Chesapeake Bay Bridge Walk.
The sheriff also is asking for $41,950 for contractual services; $27,760 for supplies and materials; $8,330 for businessand travel; and $21,000 for new computer equipment.
So exasperated was Neall with the sheriff's overspending that he asked last month for state legislation limiting the sheriff's duties and requiring himto perform those duties without exceeding his budget. The bill has been withdrawn.
Without the $200,000 transfer, the sheriff's officewill run out of money and technically could be shut down.
However, the sheriff, an independently elected official, maintains that the executive has no ultimate control over his budget and is bound by thestate constitution to subsidize the sheriff's office. The courts could file suit against the county, forcing it to give the sheriff enough money to prevent closure of the courts.
Public hearings on the sheriff's transfer bill and other legislation will take place in the Arundel Center in Annapolis beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Also on the agenda are hearings on a bill requiring cardio-pulmonary resuscitation equipment in public places and on resolutions approving state financingfor the purchase of housing units throughout Anne Arundel, for use as low-income housing.