STANISLAUS COUNTY — Stanislaus County officials estimate annual costs of $13.3 million to $14.6 million for operating a major Public Safety Center expansion, depending on how many beds are added.
Those figures include salary and benefits for up to 148 custodial deputies, plus the costs for food, medical care for inmates, utilities and maintenance. The $89.5 million expansion at the countys Hackett Road complex in west Ceres will add from 384 to 480 beds in the maximum-security unit, a 72-bed unit for inmates with medical or mental health needs and a day reporting center for probationers.
A separate $24 million project calls for a jail booking and transportation center.
The state is funding 90 percent of building the $89.5 million expansion, but its unclear how the county will fund the annual costs of housing more inmates in a time of sluggish revenue growth.
Jody Hayes, a county deputy executive officer, said jails are a general fund obligation. The county expects part of the money to come from the statewide public-safety realignment and hopes to see increased revenue from sales and property taxes before the facilities are ready to open in 2017.
There are certainly projections that could support revenue growth in the county budget to operate the facility at full capacity, but those are just projections, Hayes said. We are still four years off.
As a fallback position, the state will allow the county to open the new cells in phases as revenue is available, officials said.
Thats the only saving grace I see, Supervisor Terry Withrow said. We dont want to pass up this (jail construction money from the state). I am feeling better that we can get it built and fill the jail as we have funds to operate it.
The county had a jail-bed shortage before the state made counties responsible for low-level criminal offenders starting in October 2011. And officials expect demand for jails will increase as court orders force the state to reduce the number of inmates in California prisons.
Architects designed an alternative plan with an additional 96 maximum-security beds, for a total of 552 beds. But the county wont know whether it can be built within the budget until it receives bids from contractors next year.
A facility with 456 beds would require 102 new positions, including 94 deputies, five sergeants and two clerical workers.
For the 552-bed lockup, the Sheriffs Department would need to add 116 personnel 104 deputies, five sergeants, a lieutenant and five support staff.
With either scenario, the department can help staff the jails by moving 47 deputies and support staff from other locations.
Other items in the operating cost analysis presented to supervisors Tuesday included $300,700 for maintenance, $1.8 million for medical care, $639,350 for utilities and supplies and $359,525 for food.
Hayes said the county has $10 million to cover startup costs and first-year operations, which comes from reserves, fund balances and money freed up by making accelerated debt payments on county facilities.
When construction is completed, county leaders could review whether a larger portion of the general fund should be devoted to jails at the expense of other services.
Those are hard decisions we have to make, but we still need deputies on the street and we already have taken a lot from the services we have, Withrow said. I think we have to make sure we can afford it before we start filling those jail beds.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.