Clarke County, Miss. Local efforts are being made to deal with drastic cuts for drug enforcement in Mississippi. Thirteen drug task force agencies in the state are facing federal cuts. Mississippi's funding for these agencies is being slashed from $5 million to $1.9 million. Participants in the South Mississippi Drug Task Force are examining their options.
According to Clarke County Sheriff Todd Kemp, last year the South Mississippi Drug Task Force was awarded about $120,000 in federal funding. For next year that figure is expected drop by more than 70%.
"I think for next year's budget we were projected to get $25,000," says Kemp. "That may or may not pay for our secretary in the task force office in Waynesboro."
Currently, Clarke, Wayne and Greene counties, along with the cities of Quitman and Waynesboro have officers who work with the South Mississippi Drug Task Force. Despite the cuts Sheriff Kemp says most, if not all, of the entities involved are looking for ways to continue the partnership.
"So, at this point we tried to make all of the necessary preparations that we could to try to work through this, but we don't see down the road that we're going to continue to have the funding to operate as a task force."
Each government entity is developing a plan to pay for the agency's officers.
"Some of those are paid by the grant. It's questionable about what happens to those positions. Unlike Clarke County and Quitman, our agencies employ the employees and we were reimbursed 75% for officers' salaries. That is gone. So, we have to absorb the cost of our grant that's assigned to the task force," says Kemp.
So far, Clarke County and the city of Quitman have approved funding to pay for the one officer that each has who works with the task force.
Early next week officials from all of the entities that make up the South Mississippi Drug Task Force are expected to meet in Waynesboro to make further plans for the future.
The South Mississippi Drug Task Force is based in Waynesboro. It has six officers. Two of those officers are from Waynesboro, and one is from Quitman. Clarke, Wayne and Greene counties each have one officer with the agency.