Kim White, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Halifax County, is speaking out about potential budget cuts to her office.
Mrs. White is letting the public know about the effects that a $80,000 budget cut will do to her office. Here’s the text of a letter that she has sent to SouthsideCentral as well to the Halifax County newspapers.
Thank you for the opportunity to directly address the citizens of Halifax County concerning the effects of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office budget cuts proposed by the finance committee of the Board of Supervisors. Citizens who are alarmed by the proposed budget action of the Board of Supervisors should contact members of the Board as soon as possible as it is expected that the Board will pass a budget very soon.
Although I never was told of the amount of the proposed budget cut of approximately $80,000 by any member of the Board of Supervisors or any member of the County Administration prior to my reading about it in the newspaper, I have confirmed that not only is the Board seeking to reduce my office budget by the amount of the state cuts, but also cutting the local funds to my office. My contacts with prosecutor’s offices across the Commonwealth have told me that the vast majority of localities are NOT imposing the state reductions and certainly not additional local cuts because those jurisdictions consider the law enforcement functions of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Offices to be valuable core government services.
If the Board of Supervisors approves a budget that cuts my office by $80,000, I will be forced to lay off people, resulting in a reduction of services provided to citizens – victims, deputies, officers, troopers, merchants, courts. Pursuant to §15.2-1627 of the Code of Virginia, Commonwealth’s Attorneys and Assistants only are required to prosecute felony charges. However, because of the experience of, expertise of and number of prosecutors currently in this office, we are able to provide services to the citizens of the County beyond those mandated by Virginia law.
Currently this office does prosecute charges other than felonies. That most likely will have to stop if our budget is cut. Some of the non felony charges we prosecute include domestic violence crimes, misdemeanor sex crimes, juvenile misdemeanors, drunk driving charges, marijuana charges, concealed weapon violations, property damage charges, shoplifting charges, bad check charges, assault and battery charges, trespassing charges and hunting, fishing and game regulation violations. If our prosecutor numbers are reduced such that we only have enough prosecutors and time to dedicate to our state mandated duty of prosecuting felonies, citizens, victims, merchants and officers may have to bring those misdemeanor cases to trial without the assistance of a prosecutor – often with a state or locally compensated defense attorney on the other side, protecting the rights of the defendant. Yet, the proposed budget cut will leave the rights of the citizens unrepresented. A highly likely result will be fewer convictions in these misdemeanors.
Currently this office also provides advice and guidance to all law enforcement officers investigating crimes in the County. On call every day, all day, all year, I and my Assistants field phone calls at all hours concerning police conduct, search and seizure issues, elements of crimes and investigation strategy. I sincerely believe that because of our flexibility and availability for law enforcement inquiries, our victims of crime are better served and protected, citizens are afforded the required protections guaranteed to them under the Constitution, and criminals and their crimes are capably and swiftly investigated and apprehended. Again, if our prosecutor numbers are reduced, the availability and flexibility we have to offer to law enforcement officers could be greatly impacted.
If the Board of Supervisors approves a budget that cuts my office, we may be left without a specialized Drug Prosecutor. This position has been a part of Halifax County for nearly twenty years. This specialized prosecutor works hand in hand with members of the Drug and Gang Task Force in the detection, investigation and prosecution of the criminals bringing and selling drugs and committing acts of violence in Halifax County. In fact, it was through this office that the very first drug king pin prosecution in Virginia was secured.
I recognize that economic times are tough for everyone. In fact, I have met with the Board of Supervisors and demonstrated cuts that I can make and still provide services to the citizens. That proposal appears to have fallen on deaf ears. In addition, over the last six fiscal years, this office has been frugal and responsible in using state funds in place of local funds to save the County hundreds of thousands of budgeted dollars. Those efforts appear to have fallen on deaf ears.
Unfortunately, the proposed budget cut by the Board of Supervisors on the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney won’t fall on deaf ears. The effects will be heard by victims, merchants, officers and the courts. If this concerns you, I urge you to contact members of the Board of Supervisors. Ask that they make public safety and law enforcement a priority and fully fund this office.
Yours very truly,
Kimberley Slayton White