The Pima County Sheriff's Department expects to be $3 million over budget this year and has asked the county for a $3.5 million increase next year.

Sheriff's Department officials blame the budget overrun on increased staffing, transportation costs and paying sick and vacation time to departing employees - plus more than $802,000 for the lease of 600 Tasers.

Capt. Christopher Radtke, administrative services division commander, and Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the extra $802,000 is just a paperwork accounting mechanism and won't cost the county or taxpayers any extra money. The Tasers will eventually be paid for with seized drug profits over a five-year period.

Radtke said the county's accounting policy required the entire purchase to be recorded on this year's books, and for the funds to come out of the budget in the same fiscal year as the purchase, even though the actual expenditure will play out in installments over five years.

Huckelberry said the sheriff's finances for this year haven't been "dug into yet," but he has a higher tolerance for a $2 million to $3 million overrun at the sheriff's office than other county agencies, which have much smaller budgets.

"Historically, their budget depends on people and the services they provide," Huckelberry said.

It's hard to predict from one year to the next how many people will be incarcerated and thus how many corrections officers need to be hired or how many meals need to be provided, Huckelberry said.

In addition, fuel costs fluctuate greatly depending on crime levels, Huckelberry said.

Knowing how much the sheriff's office budget should be for next year will be easier to determine after looking at this year's overrun, Huckelberry said.

The Sheriff's Department budget was $125.5 million this year, and the department is asking for a budget of $129.1 million for next year, Huckelberry said.

Radtke said the Sheriff's Department will need extra money to equip patrol vehicles, replace expiring body armor and out-of-warrant mobile data terminals, and to cover rising food costs. The increase is also needed to maintain staffing levels, Radtke said.

In three years, the department will be losing 20 to 30 sworn officers due to planned retirements, and it takes several months for new officers to be hired and trained, he said.

According to budget documents, the sheriff's office is also expecting an increase of $6.7 million in benefit costs next year.

The department currently has 500 sworn officers, 450 corrections officers and 500 civilian employees.

Although Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is "usually reasonable" in his requests, Huckelberry suspects the sheriff will be asked to defer or stagger some of his expected expenditures.

"For elected officials, like the Board of Supervisors, it's more difficult to say no to law enforcement agencies than, say, the parks department," he said, "and the law enforcement agencies know they have an advantage."

Huckelberry expects to have his recommended budget to the board by April 30. The final budget will be adopted by July 1.

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or