OZARK COUNTY, Mo.– There are now fewer deputies in Ozark County after a move the sheriff said was the last resort.

Sheriff Cass Martin said due to inflation increasing, expenditures and far below projected sales tax revenue, the department has been forced to downsize staff.

He said multiple staff members and two deputies were laid off.

Martin said in a press release, “After working closely with the county commission to find ways to overcome the large deficit, we were left with no other options than to lay off personnel to meet our budgetary obligations. This was an extremely difficult decision that I hoped I would never have to make.”

OzarksFirst spoke with Martin briefly on his way out to calls. He declined an interview, due to the amount of extra work he was taking on from losing staff members.

He said the department strives to continue providing the best law enforcement services for all of Ozark County.

Ozark County Presiding Commissioner, John Turner, said the layoffs won’t bring savings immediately, but he hopes it will get the department back within the budget before the end of the year.

“Some people say we’re shorting the sheriff’s department,” said Turner. “We gave them the $200 thousand they asked for in their budget. We also have given them an additional $38 thousand last month just to meet payroll. We’ve actually given them $238 thousand this year, which is $38 thousand more than they’ve asked for at the beginning. The problem is there are still four or five months left in the year.”

Local residents said they hope the changes won’t affect public safety.

“You have to figure with less staff, there’s going to be drifters and more vandalism,” said Theresa Guzik. “That’s what we’re afraid of.”

This news comes after last month when the department announced they were going to start scaling back on patrolling due to budget issues. County leaders hope voters can help with funding by approving a sales tax.