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Riverdale to get deputies

By Justin Boron

Riverdale may have found its way to some more money through the new sheriff.

Sheriff Victor Hill has agreed to deputize a group of Riverdale police officers for the purpose of serving warrants outside the city limits, allowing them to notify the hundreds of people with outstanding fines.

City Manager Iris Jessie said deputized police officers will allow the city to step up its efforts to collect court fines to generate more revenue, which would reduce the amount of reserve funds it plans to use to balance the budget at the end of the year.

"We're trying to take a harder look," Jessie said.

Stanley Tuggle, the previous sheriff, said he did not deputize the officers because it posed a potential liability to the county.

"Once you swear them in, they're liable for what they do," he said. "I didn't think it was proper to put the county on the liability hook."

Tuggle said in lieu of making the officers deputies, he offered one of his own deputies to work with the municipal police to serve warrants outside of Riverdale.

The city estimates it will have to withdraw $1.3 million from the reserve this year. It used $800,000 last year, Jessie said.

There is about $4.5 million in the reserves, she said.

Council member Kenny Ruffin said the amount of money generated through the courts has waned in the past two years.

In 2003, the city collected $15,000 in tickets. In 2004, it collected only $11,000.

But once the officers are deputized, allowing them to operate beyond jurisdictional lines, the amount of money the court collects will rise, Jessie said.

Riverdale currently has about $300,000 in uncollected fines within the city, she said.

Hill said there would be conditions on making the officers deputies.

Unlike most deputies, Riverdale officers wouldn't be permitted to work drug seizures or make arrests outside the city.

But Tuggle said once officers are sworn in, they have all the authority of deputy sheriff.

Other parts of the Riverdale budget also are trending low, Jessie said.

In light of the revenue problems, she said the expenditure should be given more care.

"We could exercise a little more oversight in expenditure," Jessie said.

But she expects revenue to improve as the year continues.

In spite of some line items' shortcomings, property tax collection is strong, Jessie said.

Mayor Phaedra Graham also said she was concerned about the budget in her closing remarks to the citizens and promised them she would stay on top of the issue.