Portsmouth mayor calls for $1M cut from sheriff’s budget

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Portsmouth’s mayor said Tuesday night in a work session he wants to cut $1 million from the sheriff’s budget to help with a shortfall. The city is trying to make up $11.7 million.

The latest plan would reduce the shortfall by about $8.7 million, but it would require a roughly four-cent tax increase. Some of the options on the table include eliminating employee raises for police and fire personnel, implementing a hiring freeze, and reducing library branch hours. Mayor Kenny Wright said he wants to take $1 million from Sheriff Bill Watson’s budget.

“I think it’s going to be very unfair to these departments to put these cuts in place and this guy got people stuffed in every room in that courthouse,” Wright said.

Mayor Wright discussed taking another half million in supplements for deputies, saying the city is paying thousands for unused beds at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. He said there are places the sheriff’s office could cut back.

“I don’t agree with your numbers at all. I think you’re shooting off the cuff and you’re using a three or four-year-old study,” councilman Bill Moody said.

The plan was not finalized Tuesday and council sent Godfrey to continue working on the options.

“We’re at about four cents and I just directed him to go find me the other four. I want no tax increase. If we got to do a four, I don’t mind doing that, but we’re not going to do that with the sheriff and some of these other folks having some discretionary funds in their budget that should be challenged,” Wright said.

Sheriff Bill Watson said that if the city cuts $1 million from his budget, it will end up losing $2 million, because he’s been able to bring money into the city through programs. He said he won’t send inmates to the regional jail, as the mayor has asked, because keeping them at the Portsmouth jail brings in per diem for inmates. “He is not going to run the sheriff’s office. He needs to run his own office,” Watson said.

Mayor Wright said he wanted to meet with the sheriff and the city manager this week, to have the sheriff justify keeping the $1 million in funds.

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