Portsmouth council moves some money back to sheriff’s budget

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Four weeks after cutting $1 million from the sheriff’s budget, Portsmouth City Council voted to move more money to his office.

The city was facing a more than $11.7 million shortfall when council added a three-cent tax increase and cut from several departments last month. Sheriff Bill Watson had said the cut to his department would impact courthouse security.

The decision made Tuesday night adds nearly $220,000 back to Watson’s budget. It would fund part-time scanner tech positions at the courthouse. Watson told WAVY News he plans to hire back the techs that had been working full-time, but they would become part-time and lose benefits they had before.

The money would come from telephone commission revenue, funds generated by the sheriff’s office from charges to inmates making phone calls in the city jail.

Mayor Kenny Wright told WAVY News the move has been his plan all along and he wanted to discuss it with Watson weeks ago.

“I requested a meeting with him so we could discuss and lay all of this out, what council wanted to do. Because he wanted to bring you all in the meeting and do all of that stuff, and then he walked out, that’s why we never had that conversation,” Wright said.

When asked about that comment, Watson said Wright wants to do all of the talking. He called Tuesday’s decision a good thing, but said it would not replace the people he’s losing.

Interim City Manager Brannon Godfrey said the money going to the sheriff had accumulated over the years and had never been appropriated.

“We’re basically doing the things that the consultant had recommended in his report to us that other cities and municipalities were doing, so we’re just doing what other folks are doing,” Wright said.

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