The Gold Dome: Where budget cuts cost you money
By JIM WALLS
Here’s how budget cuts could wind up costing taxpayers $618,000 more every year for security at the state Capitol:
The Georgia Department of Public Safety in 2010 detached several troopers to the Capitol Police Division to comply with mandatory budget cuts in other divisions, State Auditor Russell Hinton said in a Feb. 3 report.
The troopers’ primary duty at the Capitol was to monitor entrances at two state office buildings. Hinton found private security officers had been handling that task at an annual cost of $77,000, while the troopers who replaced them cost about $695,000.
Public Safety officials, who acknowledged the transfers were budget-related, argued that the troopers also patrolled the Capitol Square and performed other duties.
Hinton couldn’t find much evidence of that, though. Of 535 citations issued by Capitol police over a four-month period, he said, the transferred troopers wrote two.
While it would save money, the Department of Public Safety disagreed with Hinton’s recommendation to return Capitol security to private hands:
“The Department agrees that the option of increasing the private security contract will produce the most cost savings, but it does not provide adequate security to the Capitol Square area and to the employees and visitors to the area.”
Hinton said eliminating the detached trooper positions and other streamlining could save Capitol Police about $1.4 million of its $6.4 million in annual expenditures.
The House Appropriations Committee, perhaps noting the presence of more troopers hanging around the Capitol, had asked Hinton to look into Capitol Police funding and spending. The lesson learned: Think twice before hiding excess expenses directly under the noses of the people who control your budget.