Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman will face tough questions from county supervisors at a finance committee meeting Tuesday, following the revelation last week that the sheriff’s office has overspent its fiscal 2013 budget by roughly $2.7 million.
The fact was announced to the board by Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) at a budget work session Thursday. Buona, who is the chairman of the county finance, government services and operations committee, said the development came to his attention as he was preparing for the upcoming committee meeting.
Buona said he was especially concerned to learn that the sheriff’s office had been contacted about the issue, but the county finance committee was not informed.
“This overrun has not come to my committee. Nobody has come to the finance committee… and said, we’re overspending. Nobody has said we had extraordinary circumstances, we needed additional appropriation… none of that has happened,” Buona said. “I’m learning that, with just over a quarter to go left in the fiscal year, you are significantly over budget. That’s troublesome.”
Chapman, who was present at the work session, did not have an opportunity to reply to the development; instead, the supervisors said he should expect to respond at a county finance committee meeting Tuesday.
Buona cautioned that there would be “hard questions” for the sheriff at the meeting.
“When did you first learn about it, what have you done since you learned about it?” Buona asked Chapman at the work session on Thursday.
Chapman said Tuesday that he was prepared for those questions.
“It’s important that [Buona] understand exactly where we are and how we got to where we are,” Chapman said. “We’re going to show that we have in fact exercised due diligence and made efforts to cut expenses and stay within a reasonable budget.”
The vast majority of the overspending, Chapman said, was a result of overtime staffing — an issue exacerbated in part by a series of unusual circumstances, including severe weather and a slew of political campaign events.
At the board work session Thursday, Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) had also noted that it was an “exceptional year” with many visiting candidates and violent weather affecting sheriff’s office staffing demands, he said.
York said his primary concern was the lack of communication between the sheriff’s office and county supervisors, a point that Buona echoed.
“I do know that county staff informed the sheriff’s department [about the overspending] a long time ago in this fiscal year… so I hope you can tell us what you did to try to stop the bleeding,” Buona said to Chapman.
Chapman said Tuesday that he would provide detailed information at the committee meeting.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to really explain how this occurred, because I think it’ll make it quite clear to everybody involved what happened and why, and what we’re going to do to remedy this in the future,” he said.
Loudoun Chief Financial Officer Ben Mays said Tuesday that it was “very rare” for any department to go so far over budget. Most similar issues, he said, are quickly resolved by re-allocating money from the county’s general fund. The county board is often not directly involved in that process, he said.
“We move money around, and we fix problems,” he said. “But this is a pretty good-sized one.”