By Andy Furillo
The Sacramento courts and the Sheriff's Department have resolved their flap over security costs, ending a threat of cuts this year in the number of uniformed officers who keep the county's justice operation safe.
Sheriff's officials had told Superior Court managers that they'd have to pull as many as 15 deputies off the security detail to offset what they expected to be a $2.2 million combination of funding shortfall and added costs.
But an increase in funds from the state helped erase $600,000 of the imbalance. Sheriff's budget experts then internally redirected another $1 million to courthouse security. Three vacancies will go unfilled this year to account for the other $600,000, officials said.
"We do have it resolved for now and hopefully going forward it will stay resolved," Chief Deputy Sheriff Erik Maness said today.
The Sheriff's Department had notified Sacramento Superior Court in July that an expected shortfall in security funding would force the agency to cut its 163-officer staff in the court buildings by 15 officers.
Some judges reacted to the notification with zinging emails that forecast danger to themselves and the public if a reduction of that size became a reality. Chris Volkers, the court's executive officer, threatened to sue if Sheriff Scott Jones went ahead with the cut.
Top officials from the courts and the Sheriff's Department got together in the ensuing weeks to fashion a resolution that both sides today confirmed had taken place.
Maness said "some growth money we weren't taking into account" from the state took care of 27 percent of the problem. The department initially had anticipated no increase in the $25.8 million it got from the state last year, even as the legislative allocation for all 58 counties went up this year from $502.5 million to a projected $513.5 million. Under a special funding formula, Sacramento County gets 5.1 percent of the statewide amount.
Sheriff Jones then "wanted to come to an amicable resolution" with the courts, Maness said, and "he agreed to throw in some more money" from his own budget to make up $1 million of the shortfall.
As for the three vacancies, Maness said sheriff's managers will absorb the loss this year by reorganizing some deputies' schedules.
"We were able to create more efficiencies," Maness said.
Rising personnel costs accounted for some of Sacramento's court security spending shortfall. Department-wide, increased salary, pension and Social Security costs are expected to add $1.4 million to the sheriff's spending in the current fiscal year.
Sacramento Superior Court Presiding Judge Laurie M. Earl said she expects a repeat of the security funding face-off with the Sheriff's Department next year, "because I think the sheriff's costs continue to go up, related to their salary costs."
"I don't know that the (funds) they get out of realignment keeps up with that," Earl said. The presiding judge said one of the reasons she's not sure how things will work out for next year is because "there's no real audit procedures in place to assure that they're getting the level of funding they need and that the funding they get is spent solely on court security costs."
For the courts, that means "we are stuck," Earl said.
"We don't have any leverage obviously because we don't hold the money," she said. "We're stuck being an unintended victim of this, I think."