Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones can spend state funding to house new offenders as he sees fit, a county committee recommended Thursday.
Jones submitted a revised budget for housing offenders coming to the county under a state law that went into effect Oct. 1.
The revised budget received the endorsement of the county's Community Corrections Partnership, which is responsible for developing programs to handle thousands of new offenders the county is receiving under the new law.
The sheriff has been dogged with questions about spending since it was revealed that he didn't reopen a jail wing until months later than originally planned.
Jones ultimately opened the wing when the jail's population was at a record low, raising questions about whether he needed to open it.
Critics, including state Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, have said more jail funding should go to rehabilitation programs, as the Legislature intended when it approved the shift of offenders from the state to the counties.
The sheriff's revised budget for this fiscal year anticipates spending $122,000 on rehabilitation programs, down from the $500,000 that was approved in its original budget.
Jones said Thursday that discussion about the approved budget is less important than the department's actual costs. The county budgeted $6 million for jail costs in its plan for the new offenders this fiscal year, but Jones estimated that the costs will come in around $14 million.
The reason for the big difference: The previous estimate was based on the cost of reopening a jail wing, while the recent estimate is based on a daily cost per inmate of $95, Jones said. That's how much the county charges the federal government to house inmates at the jail.
Jones said he knows the county won't get reimbursed for the cost difference. He said he wanted to give the Community Corrections Partnership a more accurate idea of jail costs under the new law, and eliminate any question about whether the department had available funding.
The full committee's unanimous recommendation will go to an executive committee next week. The executive committee's decision will go to the Board of Supervisors, which can reject the decision only by a supermajority.
The higher cost estimate may also come into play as the committee plans to begin discussions soon on the budget for coming fiscal year. While some members of the committee have discussed locking in the costs of core programs such as the jail, others would like to see more money directed to rehabilitation.