As of today, effective 5pm or at the close of the workday, several Bowie County, Texas employees’ careers will come to an end. Due to a 15% budget cut, the county can no longer afford to employ all of its existing staff. Not only will the cuts have an impact on the county workforce and their families, but the ripple effects of the cuts will be felt throughout the community.
For any municipality, having a fiscally sound budget is critical to executing day-to-day operations and meeting the civic demands of the public.
As public expectation of what the government’s role in society is grows, government administrators must find ways to do more with less, or simply do less.
In many cases, anemic revenue streams inflict greater restrictions on the quantity and the quality of the type of services a government body can render to its citizenry. And, with a series of recent revelations that revealed a number of self-dissolving financial practices, Bowie County officials now find themselves facing tough economic choices.
Department heads are now forced to decide at what level of intensity the county can render civic services to Bowie County residents.
In effort to recover from past unsustainable financial practices, Bowie County leadership has opted to put in place steep payroll cuts. Reports indicate that 15 positions within the county’s current workforce will be eliminated due to these cuts.
According to KSLA News reporter Sarah Nemeth, the cuts have already had a painful impact on county staff–prompting the early retirement of sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Garry McCrary; a 20 year veteran of the Bowie County Sheriff’s department. One can only imagine the deep impact these cuts will have on the already understaffed law enforcement division.
But not only do cuts mean that there will be fewer crime fighting officers to serve the Bowie County region but, they also mean fewer resources to run the entire justice system; making it even more difficult for the county to execute county functions in an expeditious manner. This could mean longer lines in the County Clerk’s office, or longer wait periods for property owners to have their property tax invoices processed. At worse, it could even mean a delay in bringing criminals to justice.
The possibility of financial constraints disrupting police work is a major concern for some Bowie County citizens, particularly for the friends, family and loved ones of homicide victim Sonjha Banks. Last September, the 37-year-old woman was discovered inside the burning home of her then boyfriend, who allegedly found her unresponsive and pulled Banks out of the smoke filled house and contacted emergency crews for help, but it was too late.
A preliminary autopsy done by the coroner indicated that Banks’ death was likely an intentional homicide. However, almost a year later, Bowie County Sherriff James Prince and his law enforcement team are still investigating this unsolved murder case.
For Sonjha’s family, a new question now emerges: in addition to the existing unanswered questions surrounding her death, how will these new cuts affect the on-going investigation of the suspicious death of Sonjha?
Homicide related research shows that after the first 48hrs of a murder, investigators become less effective in solving the case. For those investigating Sonjha’s death, time certainly isn’t on their side, and now, with budget cuts coming to the Bowie County law enforcement division, Prince and his team now face an even tougher challenge in the pursuit of justice for Sonjha. As citizens, we do not always see the importance of holding elected officials accountable to the same financial disciplines that we adopt for our own personal lives and, as voters, we sometimes overlook the need to responsibly participate in the electoral process. Today, is a clear reminder of our role as citizens and how our involvement or the lack thereof, can influence political decisions and the outcomes they have on our community.
The people who we put in charge of handling public funds and to oversee everyday government functions must be held to the same standards of the citizens they were elected to serve. It is rare that we see the immediate cause and effect of the decisions that government officials make on our behalf, but today, that rare instance has paid Bowie County citizens a visit in a very personal and painful way.