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Funding for sheriff is central to Sacramento County budget debate

Sacramento County supervisors started budget hearings Monday in the county’s best financial position in several years, but they still engaged in the annual debate about how much to spend on law enforcement.

With discretionary revenue expected to rise 4 percent to $583 million in the fiscal year starting July 1, County Executive Brad Hudson proposed a budget with spending increases for social service programs, including those for the homeless and the mentally ill, as well as additional funding for law enforcement departments.

Hudson’s proposed budget includes an increase of more than $10 million for the Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Scott Jones said the funding is essential to carry out his “paradigm shift” that will make the department an “intelligence-led” agency that uses crime data and community patrols instead of simply responding to crime.

Jones told supervisors that he would not start the shift without a full commitment to it. He said the move will require additional personnel, starting with 47 deputies and supervisors in the coming fiscal year.

“These numbers represent an all-or-nothing proposition,” Jones said. “If any component of this intelligence-led policing is not met, it will fail.”

While a majority of supervisors said they support the switch, they indicated they might not support Jones’ full request for an additional $10 million. Supervisors did not explain their positions, but indicated opposition by repeatedly asking him what less than full funding would mean for his proposed restructuring.

Supervisor Susan Peters, one of the sheriff’s strongest supporters on the board, noted that Jones’ department was already slated to receive an additional $4.5 million. “I don’t know how you’re going to get $9.5 million.”

After other supervisors expressed similar reservations, Jones said he would continue to restructure the department as long as he received assurances from supervisors that they are committed to increased funding in the future.

Jones said he was concerned because supervisors have “interests that are varied and wide,” including the social service programs Hudson included in his budget presentation Monday.

Meanwhile, District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert is asking for a $2.5 million increase in her budget to pay for three new employees and buy equipment for the crime lab, among other things.

“We are still an underfunded agency,” she said.

The Probation Department and the public defender’s office are also seeking increases. Officials in both departments said they have an increased workload because of new state laws and court opinions that have had the effect of shifting greater responsibility for offenders to counties. Schubert made the same point, noting that voter-approved Proposition 47 required law-enforcement officials to review thousands of cases from offenders seeking to reduce felonies to misdemeanors, but the initiative did not include additional funding.

Supervisors will continue budget hearings Tuesday and will hear from social service directors about a number of proposals, including providing health insurance to undocumented immigrants.

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