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County fails to transfer funding for sheriff's cruisers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County officials went scrambling this week to find money to pay for sheriff's department cruisers after a clerical error left a fund empty that was supposed to pay for the vehicles.

"It puts a big hole in our budget," said Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy, who found out about the mistake on Friday.

"It's not that we can't fix the problem," he said. "But it's one we weren't counting on, and it's half a million dollars that's going to have to be found.

"We've purchased the cars, and if we're going to have to do some belt-tightening to pay for it, we're just going to have to do it."

Kanawha County Manager Jennifer Sayre said county officials found out about the mistake when invoices came in for cruisers that had already been bought.

"The bill has been paid," Sayre said. "We were able to move funds from other areas to get that done."

When Kanawha County voters renewed the county's public safety, ambulance and bus levy in 2010, $500,000 a year was supposed to come off of the top for a public safety fund to pay for sheriff's vehicles and other equipment. The rest of the money was to go to the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority and the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority.

But Sayre said someone made a mistake in computing the levy fund contributions. When county officials went to the public safety fund to pay for the cruisers bought in 2011 and 2012, they discovered there wasn't any money in the account.

"It's an interpretation issue," Sayre said. "The $500,000 that saw supposed to come off the top to go to the public safety fund didn't happen the past two years."

Short-changing the public safety fund also means too much levy money went to KRT and the ambulance authority. County officials will meet with ambulance and KRT officials on Tuesday to decide how to correct the problem and make sure the levy funds are properly allocated in the future.

"I'm confident it can be corrected," said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper. "The important thing is there are no missing funds."

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.

 


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