County Budget Cuts Have Law and Order in Cross-hairs

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"The only time a prosecutor works 40 hours a week is when they're sick," Ingham County prosecutor Stuart Dunnings, III says of his staff.

He came out swinging at a committee meeting of the county board on the budget, not only protesting recommendations to cut a lawyer from his staff, but asking for two more.

He says in his time as a prosecutor, he's never asked for new staff. "We do what we can."

Now, though, he says case loads are bigger, laws are tighter, and he needs help to do his job.

The county's preliminary budget suggested 6 layoffs at the sheriff's office, and the sheriff was there with an alternative. His office suggested 4 layoffs, and made up the rest by offering to wait longer between losing a staff member and filling the position, and stall on buying 4 new cars.

"It's a one time fix," Undersheriff Allan Spyke told the committee.

The two departments are among the most expensive in the county. The sheriff's office alone accounts for about 25 percent of a $168 million dollar budget.

That, Ingham County Controller Matt Myers says, is why they were targeted so heavily.

The board voted to recommend accepting the sheriff's alternative budget and to reinstate the position cut from the prosecutor's office. They also voted to add another position from a small budget of unspent funds. Those are recommendations that still need consideration from the county board as a whole.

The county is anticipating a $4.7 million deficit for 2008. Some estimates say it could be larger in 2009.

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