Major cuts coming in Spokane County budget

A significantly small budget is forcing Spokane County Commissioners to find a way to slash about $10.5 million by December.

Fewer Sheriff?s deputies on the streets, less room to house criminals, and fewer lawyers to stand up for victims of crimes are all possible ways to keep the county financially sound.

On Tuesday, both the prosecutor and sheriff stood before commissioners expressing deep concern about how the budget cuts will cripple their ability to fight crime.

The prosecutor?s office stands to lose nine deputy prosecutors and the sheriff?s office is looking at 16 positions eliminated, which will include everything from detectives to deputies.

Both the sheriff and prosecutor want the public to know what this means for all of our safety.

?This is an emergency,? said Prosecutor Steve Tucker.

Tucker, along with Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, came to the Spokane County Commissioners meeting to plead for the jobs of those who filled the room.

?Cuts are really more severe than we can handle,? said Sheriff Knezovich

?It just doesn?t fit well with me to hand hold with criminals. I don?t want to do it I never have, so what I ask the board is if there?s any money anywhere try and keep us at the staffing level we’re at,? Tucker said.

If the prosecutor?s office loses a projected nine deputy prosecutors, then about 900 fewer felonies and 5,000 to 6,000 fewer misdemeanors will be prosecuted.

?The public needs to know this might happen so it?s not a surprise to crime victims on January first. If someone experiences theft and we say we can?t prosecute that,? Tucker said.

The Sheriffs Office cuts include two lieutenants, one sergeant, five detectives, five deputies and three early retirements. The cuts come at a time when the sheriff says we need law enforcement more than ever.

?Historically whenever there’s a downturn in the economy crime tends to trend up. We’re seeing property crimes starting to trend upward,? said Sheriff Knezovich.

Also, more criminals will be on the streets because over half of the beds at Geiger Corrections Center will be eliminated.

?I?m not happy with the fact that we could have some people that should be in jail that we can?t hold,? Sheriff Knezovich said.

At Tuesday?s meeting, the commissioners said the situation is not a rosy picture and these cuts are real.

Commissioner Todd Mielke said it?s not about if they will make cuts, but rather how the cuts will be made.

It is frightening news to all the people in the audience at Tuesday?s meeting and their bosses who will have some really hard decisions to make next year.

?It?s very dire,? Tucker said.

Unions are negotiating with the sheriff?s and prosecutor?s office to hopefully save some jobs.

The budget will be adopted by December 8th.