Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For the first time in four years, Pinellas County sheriff hits target for cuts

CLEARWATER — For the first time in four years, Sheriff Jim Coats came up with spending cuts that met the Pinellas County Commission's demands.

But $14.1 million in cuts — which are $200,000 deeper than the county's target — came with warnings about deeper reductions and unforeseen drains on taxpayers.

From the Legislature to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, outside events could leave the agency little room, Coats warned in a letter this week to commissioners. He stressed that "no further reductions are operationally acceptable."

Under the proposed budget, the sheriff will eliminate 27 deputy positions, 39 detention officers and nine civilian positions. No one will be laid off because has been attrition, already vacant jobs and shifts in staffing, such as more part-time workers and private contractors.

The reductions mean fewer deputies will get training. Clerk uniforms will be gone. The front desk at the sheriff's main office and north district station will be closed on the overnight shift.

The cuts will solve much of the county's $21.5 million deficit for 2012. The remaining reductions will come from other officeholders and departments under County Administrator Bob LaSala.

The full proposed budget is due in July.

Coats was asked to cut $13.9 million to make up for failing to meet budget reduction targets last year.

While he made $20 million in cuts last year, he still came up $9.6 million short — the core of this year's reductions. He was able to meet the full target because the agency started reducing spending last year, prompted by early signs from commissioners that they would be holding tight to the target after buckling previous years.

"I just think it's been a difficult four years for everyone," said Commission Chairwoman Susan Latvala. "This year we pulled the constitutionals in much earlier so they could understand our challenges, and we could understand their challenges."

With three previous years of reductions, the Sheriff's Office has 616 fewer jobs.

"There's no more room for cuts in patrol or the jail as far as deputies," said Chief Deputy Robert Gualtieri, who oversees the agency budget.

This summer, instead of debating whether Coats cut enough, the question for the county has become whether it's too much — and what impact it has on the community, County Commissioner Ken Welch said.

"You don't cut $14 million on top of his previous years' cut without having some impact," Welch said. "There is an impact in the personal lives of those employees and the public overall."

The commission may not be done wrestling with law enforcement spending, even if Coats' proposal sticks.

A bill in the Legislature could reduce the amount of people who can have pretrial release from jail, costing the sheriff's office $5 million to staff and operate more jail space.

Meanwhile, plans are under way for events in Pinellas related to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. Early discussions involve significant events at the beaches and Tropicana Field, Gualtieri said.

Unlike Hillsborough agencies, he said, Pinellas will not qualify for federal reimbursement of law enforcement costs. It's too soon to estimate how much that will cost, he said, but noted the hundreds of reported arrests at the last national GOP convention.

"It was a huge drain on law enforcement."

David DeCamp can be reached at or (727) 893-8779. Follow him on Twitter at

For the first time in four years, Pinellas County sheriff hits target for cuts 04/29/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 29, 2011 11:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Hillary Clinton said her 'skin crawled' when Donald Trump stood behind her on debate stage


    In her most detailed public comments about what happened during the second presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said her "skin crawled" as Donald Trump loomed behind her on the stage in St. Louis last October.

    Hillary Clinton speaks as Donald Trump listens during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 9, 2016. In her upcoming book, Clinton says "It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled." [Pool photo by Rick T. Wilking via AP]
  2. After 17 years, Pasco-Hernando State College attorney steps away


    The longtime attorney for Pasco-Hernando State College has resigned for what he says are "purely personal reasons."

    Steve Schroeder, the general council for Pasco-Hernando State College, resigned last week. His last day will be Sept. 8.
  3. Apple Scales Back Its Ambitions for a Self-Driving Car


    SAN FRANCISCO — As new employees were brought into Apple's secret effort to create a self-driving car a few years ago, managers told them that they were working on the company's next big thing: A product that would take on Detroit and disrupt the automobile industry.

     In this Monday, April 10, 2017 file photo, Luminar CEO Austin Russell monitors a 3D lidar map on a demonstration drive in San Francisco. Russell, now 22, was barely old enough to drive when he set out to create a safer navigation system for robot-controlled cars. His ambitions are about to be tested five years after he co-founded Luminar Technologies, a Silicon Valley startup trying to steer the rapidly expanding self-driving car industry in a new direction. Apple says it will scale back its amitions to build a self-driving car.  [AP Photo/Ben Margot]
  4. Studies: Automated safety systems are preventing car crashes


    WASHINGTON — Safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or that warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes, according to two studies released Wednesday.

    A side mirror warning signal is shown in a Ford Taurus at an automobile testing area in Oxon Hill, Md., in 2012. Safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes, according to two studies released Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. [Associated Press]
  5. Pet Vet: Why a cat's color can make it more susceptible to skin cancer


    Snowball is a fluffy female cat 10 years of age. Can you guess what color she might be? I ask the question because it is relevant to what might be causing her problem.

    White fluffy cat  [Dreamstime | TNS]