Larry Scroggs, Shelby County Chief Administrative Officer for the Shelby Juvenile Court, got his hand slapped Tuesday when asking for more than $1 million in funding.
Scroggs says his department is doing everything possible to comply with a U.S. Justice Department investigation that uncovered rampant racial prejudice in the juvenile system. He asked members of the commission in committee for more than $1 million to reform mental and health services.
But some commissioners say the juvenile court has made enough improvements to ask for even a dime extra.
"Juvenile court has not established a history, a patten, a platform of doing the right thing," said Commissioner Henri Brooks. "Even the Justice Department mentioned in their report that there's a mindset at juvenile court that needs to be changed."
While juvenile court asked for money Sheriff Bill Oldham said his department is cutting back and is going over the books in detail. His department is making cuts without sacrificing safety or security.
The sheriff's office is responsible for the safety and security of several departments within the county including the courts, schools, jail, basketball and football games. The budget for this department is massive, yet Sheriff Oldham is saving taxpayers a few dollars.
"We're now in a situation where the funds that we have to have," he said. "We really have to scrutinize and we've done that. We've returned over $5 million to the county taxpayer in two years."
Sheriff Oldham said when he took office he wanted every position justified.
"We found about 39 positions hadn't been filled in six years," he said. "If they hadn't been filled in six years we need them. We gave those back that reduce $3 million in funding going out from then on."
Oldham says his department also started looking at security for the new unified school system on 2011.
"Last year, in anticipation of the school merger the sheriff's office looked at its expenditures and saved $2.2 million last year and gave that back," Sheriff Oldham said. "We were under the assumption that could go toward start up cost and actually it goes to satisfy the bottom line for the county."
Most of the commissioners were surprised as the sheriff's office was merely presenting its budget, not asking for more money. Commissioner Sidney Chism said money aside, the sheriff's department is crucial to the safety of our community.
"In order to make sure that everybody is protected that can be we can't stop the crazies from doing crazy things, but we can make it hard for him," Commissioner Chism said.
They are still several areas where the sheriff's office is looking to tighten the belt, Oldham admitted. But there is one area where it and Memphis Police Department refuse to cut back - school security.
"The most important thing is safety of those children," the sheriff said. "We have to put aside turf battles and all that we'll do that. (Police Director) Toney Armstrong he loves kids, too. We're going to do all we can to work and make sure the kids are safe."
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