Pima County supervisors vote against future Operation Stonegarden funding

Pima County Board of Supervisors reject Operation Stonegarden funding

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - In a 3-2 party-line vote, the Pima County Board of Supervisors rejected a $1.8 million Operation Stonegarden grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The move comes shortly after the Tucson Police Department decided it will no longer accept future Stonegarden funding.

The Department of Homeland Security offered the grant in 2018 to pay for equipment and overtime for deputies with Pima County Sheriff’s Department. The grant would have covered work on border security and drug smuggling interception in remote, rural areas.

Supervisors decided to reject future funding because of the impact deputies’ overtime has on the county’s budget.

It had an impact on the county’s pension obligations and would end up costing taxpayers well into the future. Several community organizations also opposed the Stonegarden grant, arguing it made deputies into immigration agents, taking the responsibility to enforce immigration police away from the federal government.

Before the vote, District 3 Supervisor Sharon Bronson offered a compromise which, among other things, would have limited the number of overtime hours a deputy would be allowed to work annually, thus reducing pension liability.

That was rejected by District 4 Supervisor Steve Christy, who argued Bronson’s amendments would take years to implement meaning the window to accept the funding would have passed anyway. Bronson said she was “disappointed” because she felt her compromise would have made the federal government responsible for border security, while at the same time protecting taxpayers.

“I think Stonegarden is dead,” Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier said.

The county accepted $10 million in Stonegarden funding over the past 12 years. After the vote, the county will not accept grants in the future.

“What is the cost of not doing this?” Napier said. “I think the costs are substantial. ... What’s the cost of not interdicting heroin, methamphetamine, opioids? What is the cost of not saving a migrant?”

Bronson also shared her disappointment saying “the community lost today.”

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