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Concordia Parish’s Sheriff’s Office faced $1M deficit

Vidalia — An audit of the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office finances included nearly $1 million in deficits for the last fiscal year, but officials say they’ve already taken steps to ensure that won’t happen again.

Silas Simmons, a certified public account and advisory group in Natchez, completed the sheriff’s office’s audit for the fiscal year ending June 2013.

The sheriff’s office’s main offices are located at the Concordia Parish courthouse, and CPSO officials also manage a 40-person jail at the courthouse and two large prison facilities on Louisiana 15 in Ferriday.

The audit listed total revenues for CPSO at $15,950,009 with expenditures listed at $16,948,848, totaling a deficit of $998,839.

CPSO fiscal officer and administrative supervisor Donna Jones said officials began trimming expenses as soon as projections of a deficit in the budget were realized.

“We were estimating that we would be down $1.5 million, and we worked hard to go down to $1 million,” Jones said. “The first thing we did was begin involving people in the budgeting process like the wardens and supervisors, who had never been a part of that process before.

“We let them know what they were spending, what the actual numbers were and they were able to identify areas they could cut right away.”

Sheriff Kenneth Hedrick said another cost-cutting measure implemented was the creation of an auxiliary deputy force, which was developed to utilize volunteer officers to serve in low-risk capacity for coverage at events that serve parish residents, such as funeral processions, event security and traffic assistance.

“That allows full-time deputies to spend more time on the roads patrolling the parish or not have to work those types of events,” Hedrick said. “We just tried to tighten as many areas as we could.”

Hedrick said he also instituted a hiring freeze when he took over the office in 2012 and was able to examine personnel throughout each department more closely.

“We didn’t fire people, but as people retired we have relocated people or not replaced those positions,” Hedrick said. “If we were heavy in some areas, we tried to shift and move people around to where it made sense the most.”

The CPSO went from 312 total employees to nearly 280 employees at the main office, Concordia Parish Correctional Facility, River Correctional Facility and Concordia Parish Work Release.

The jobs include the operation of the criminal, civil, administrative and correctional divisions.

The significant budget cuts and other measures put in place have the sheriff’s office projected to break even or even show a slight profit at the end of fiscal year 2014 in June.

“We’re going to continue to be accountable and fiscally responsible,” Hedrick said. “We will continue to challenge our staff to closely examine all expenditures and find effective methods of cutting costs, while still fully serving the people of Concordia Parish.”

Only one issue of noncompliance was listed in the audit, which fell under the category of internal control and compliance material to financial statements.

The audit states the sheriff’s office did not complete and submit the audit to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office by Dec. 31, 2013.

Jones said new financial software has been installed that will allow her to submit future audit reports on time.

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