DARE slashed from sheriff’s budget | TahoeDailyTribune.com

DARE slashed from sheriff’s budget

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Impacts of the California budget continue to ripple to El Dorado County as the sheriff’s department announced it will drop the DARE program instead of cutting jobs to help cover a $647,000 hole.

When Gov. Gray Davis finally signed a budget in August, the sheriff’s department was caught off-guard after learning $647,000 would not be arriving. The department counted on that money to pay salaries and receive reimbursement for training jail deputies.

“Until the last night of the legislative session, we were confident we would have all of this money,” said Nancy Egbert, director of administrative services for EDSD.

DARE teaches schoolchildren the dangers of drug, alcohol and tobacco use. It costs the department $275,000 to administer each year. Roughly 140 South Lake Tahoe fifth-grade students from Sierra House and Meyers elementary schools are given anti-drug and self-esteem lessons through the program.

While dropping DARE would only recoup 43 percent of the $647,000, Sheriff Jeff Neves hopes the Board of Supervisors will approve the county’s covering the remaining $372,000. Neves expects a decision before the end of next week.

Neves was dismayed about aborting the program, which he said was also important for building community relations with youth. But with dropping DARE, it allows Neves to keep a sergeant, jail cook and seven correctional officers as well as money that partially funded other positions.

“My priority must be front-line law enforcement,” he said.

The program runs three times on the West Slope and less at the South Shore. Neves will let the 16-week cycle at South Shore run this year.

DARE has been dropped or changed at other law enforcement agencies across the nation. The South Lake Tahoe Police Department altered the DARE program and renamed it the SMART program.

Deputy Larry Olsen, who took over for Deputy Warren Berg in bringing the program to the two elementary schools, said it remains a powerful tool in teaching youth.

“The way I look at it, if I can get at least one kid per class then that’s five or six kids who will make the right decisions,” Olsen said.

— E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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