Budgeting error leads to San Francisco sheriff’s shortfall 

Sheriff Michael Hennessey is asking for an extra $6.4 million from The City’s general fund to keep San Francisco’s jails running through the end of June.

The request comes after a miscalculation in the current year’s budget regarding the number of sheriff’s deputies who would retire, Hennessey said. The budget proposed by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2010 and approved by the Board of Supervisors estimated that 80 deputies would be retiring, when in reality only about 25 deputies retired.

Without $6.4 million to cover the department’s unanticipated staffing costs, Hennessey said he would have to take drastic measures.

“I lay people off,” Hennessey said.

Currently, the Sheriff’s Department — which is responsible for managing The City’s jails and providing security at other public buildings — employs about 850 deputies.

The City had also planned to save money with a controversial plan to privatize security at Department of Public Health properties such as General Hospital, Laguna Honda Hospital and community health centers. A compromise proposal that would allow security guards to work for The City and replace sheriff's deputies has yet to be implemented.

A proposal in the 2010-11 budget to create a Civil Service security force has proven to be very difficult to implement and is far more costly than originally projected, said Gregg Sass, the chief financial officer for the Department of Public Health. Those costs include recruitment and hiring, background checks and training.

The budget miscalculation comes as Gov. Jerry Brown plans to realign the state prison system and send low-level criminals to local jails. Hennessey said he expects the realignment to increase The City’s jail population from 1,780 to at least 2,200. The influx of inmates would cost The City millions, Hennessey said. 

Hennessey’s $6.4 million request will be considered by the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

Number crunch

$155 million Total sheriff’s budget approved for 2010-11

$9.2 million Extra costs from fewer retirements than expected

$6.4 million Amount requested from general fund

$2.8 million Amount already saved through other sources

Source: Budget and legislative analyst

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Brent Begin

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