You might expect to hear a lot of anger and frustration from Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness over the prospect of cutting another third of his budget. After all, he had to lay off well over a hundred of his deputies last summer. And he believes a new spike in crime the last few months is a direct result. But in an interview Tuesday with Capital Public Radio, McGinness spoke with a mix of resignation – and … could it be … even optimism?
McGinness: “It’s obviously very, very troubling, but I also believe that there’s some potential for improvement.”
Why? First of all, statewide sales tax revenues are coming in stronger than expected. And thanks to a 1993 voter-approved statewide proposition, that will directly boost funding for law enforcement. And second:
McGinness: “An element of dialogue exists today that did not exist last year between the county executive’s office.”
Translation: Former county executive Terry Schutten is gone, after retiring last year. And McGinness trusts Schutten’s interim replacement, Steven Szalay.
McGinness: “My hope is by working wisely through the problem – and it is refreshing to have the county executive, Mr. Szalay – obviously, it doesn’t create a printing press, but it does create opportunities to find the best practices.”
Still, McGinness says any more cuts would have to come from patrol and investigative services in suburban Sacramento communities like Arden Arcade and Carmichael. They’re already down to bare bones from last year’s layoffs. And Kevin Mickelson with the union that represents the county’s sheriff’s deputies couldn’t believe his ears at last week’s budget briefing. That’s where county officials unveiled each department’s proposed budget gap.
Mickelson: “It is such a high number – it’s an unattainable number. I’m just bewildered as to what part of the stratosphere we pulled this number out of.”
Where did the county get that $55 million figure? Well, County Executive Steven Szalay says he split up the overall deficit proportionately, based on how much each department spends. But that’s only a starting point, he says – and his final recommendations will change.
Szalay: “It’ll be a hybrid based upon different ways of doing business, achievable cuts and least impact on services. Sheriff will take reductions. Will they be as much as what’s allocated on an equitable basis, I don’t know. We’ll see as we work through it.”
Regardless of what Szalay recommends, the Board of Supervisors will have the final say on budgets for the sheriff and every other county department. And that could give McGinness confidence as well: In recent rounds of budget cuts, the board has often given the sheriff some extra funds at the last-minute.