Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office institutes hiring freeze amid budget concerns

GOLDEN -- The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has placed a moratorium on all new hiring, as it prepares to slash its budget by millions of dollars.

Last week, county commissioners instructed departments to cut roughly 7 percent of their budgets.

Sheriff Jeff Shrader says they'll be doing so by reducing 400-600 beds in the county jail, and not filling vacancies that become available.

"As there are retirements and people leave the organization, we're not in a position now, to fill those positions," he says. "We're placing a hiring moratorium now."

County officials say at issue is statewide taxpayer protection (TABOR), which is limiting the amount local governments can collect on property taxes.

"Our property values have been increasing," says Commissioner Casey Tighe. "We would be able to collect more tax revenue based on increasing property taxes, but TABOR limits how fast the revenue can grow."

Sheriff Shrader confirmed to FOX31 he is not anticipating any layoffs, or reductions in services like K-9 units, DUI enforcement, or school resource officers.

"Those things are too important, and they put the entirety of the public at risk," he says.

Shrader says the reduction in beds equates to about 44% of the jail's capacity. He says inmates will likely be released early if the jail hits capacity.

"There's probably going to have to be policy changes in how bonds are set. There might be people that it would be more desirable for them to be in jail, but they will be out on bond."

Shrader is pushing for commissioners to cut the budget elsewhere, while preserving public safety.

Commissioners will be holding a telephone town hall on May 8, as they prepare to ask the public for taxpayer protection relief.

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