Weyers Cave Police Academy Sees Financial Turnaround
Over the past two years, the police academy serving both sides of the Blue Ridge has dug itself out of a deep financial hole. Now the center is operating in the black, and putting advanced training classes back on the schedule.
Police, deputies, jailers and dispatchers from more than 50 departments train at the Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Training Academy. Finance troubles there in 2010 brought resignations and a state police probe, but a tight-fisted director and executive board have gradually turned things around.
A half-million-dollar shortfall had forced the academy to cut all but essential programs.
"We had to get back to kind of the basics—basic dispatch and basic police training and those kind of things," said Staunton Police Chief Jim Williams.
But the new director has gotten spending under control.
"I've got to be honest—I had assistance from the previous board chairman to build the first budget, and I didn't spend any money. I was very careful with what we spent," said Randy Mullins, the academy's executive director.
According to a state agency audit, that care had not always been taken. The academy's director and board members have moved to correct former deficiencies.
"Some in the accounting, some in the training mandates. There were some objectives not being covered that we assumed they had been covered. Those areas have been corrected, and pretty much everyone's up to speed," said Augusta County Sheriff Randy Fisher.
The academy also cut its spending by renegotiating contracts and refinancing loans. It now has a $200,000 surplus, which has allowed it to hire more staff and put new classes in place.
"Because we've operated in the black we're now going to be able to bring in outside contractors to do some of our instruction," Mullins said.
The changes are not just about finances, Mullins says, but about preparing better officers. A returning student praises the academy's renewed emphasis on discipline and respect, in the classroom and in the field.
"They really put into our heads that officer safety is number one...because that's the most important thing, is going home to your family. I can say I'm now proud to come from this academy," said Victor Green, with the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office.
Most of the academy's $1.3 million budget comes from tuition and fees from member departments. Mullins says he does not foresee a hike in those fees, for at least this year or next.