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Growth Crunching Crucial County Services

July 30, 2014, 5:39 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Growth Crunching Crucial County Services

Sioux Falls officials announced Wednesday that the latest population estimate for the city is now nearly 167,000 people.

While the city is celebrating the growth, county officials say it’s putting a crunch on crucial services like the jail, law enforcement and county attorneys.

"Since 2009 we've seen a 39 percent increase in our felony caseload so it's very difficult to manage," Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Aaron McGowan said.

Stacks and stacks of criminal files are sitting on the desks of the 19 attorneys in the Minnehaha County State’s Attorney’s Office who continue to see their workload soar. McGowan says each attorney in his office has handled more than 300 cases so far this year.

"It's a very fast pace and high volume. Fortunately we have a very professional, dedicated staff that put in a lot of extra hours to handle that type of volume," McGowan said.

And the office won't be getting any help. The preliminary budget adopted by Minnehaha County Commissioners this week does not include any money for new prosecutors, defense attorneys or deputies.

Previous Story: Minnehaha County Commissioners Reject New Staff Funding 

"We don't have the money and we are in fact reducing the services to our customers," Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth said.

Barth says the tax structure in the state needs to change. While the city and state get sales tax money from people pumping money into the economy, the county doesn't see much increase in its main funding source - property tax - resulting in the current county budget crunch.

"The city makes all the money, along with the state, on sales tax. But when they get in trouble and have to go to jail, the jail, the prosecution, the defense; that's all on the county dime. We're not getting a cent of all that purchasing that's being done," Barth said.

That's why the cases will continue to stack up in the Minnehaha County State's Attorney's Office for the next year.

"When you have hundreds of cases on your docket set for trial, it's very difficult to put in the amount of time you want to in each single case and get the proper outcome,” McGowan said. "It's great for the city to have that type of growth but it really puts a strain on the county.”

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