Politics & Government

Pierce County Jail deficit to hit $2.4 million

Pierce County officials moved forward Monday to fill a $2.4 million shortfall in the jail’s budget this year with sales tax revenue.

The county jail is projected to overspend its 2014 budget by $1.9 million, $1.4 million of it due to overtime.

The deficit’s remaining $500,000 is the result of less-than-budgeted revenue coming in from agencies that use the jail. That drop is primarily due to fewer offenders from the state Department of Corrections, said county budget and finance director Gary Robinson.

Sheriff’s Department Chief Brent Bomkamp said the Department of Corrections would like to house more inmates at the county jail, but the jail doesn’t have room.

“We’re running basically at capacity right now,” Bomkamp said in an interview. It’s not unusual for the jail to be over-capacity for the number of men it can house, he said.

Turned away by the county jail, the state is instead sending parole violators to jails in King and Kitsap counties, Robinson said.

In her supplemental budget, county Executive Pat McCarthy proposed taking higher-than-anticipated sales tax revenues to cover the full $2.4 million deficit.

After eliminating that shortfall, another $600,000 in sales tax dollars will remain from 2014. That money would be added to the county’s fund balance for next year, Robinson said.

The County Council’s Rules and Operations Committee on Monday sent McCarthy’s proposal on to the full council with a “do pass” recommendation. The council is scheduled to vote on the spending plan Dec. 2.

Deficits at the jail have caused ongoing budget problems this year and in 2013.

Last year, the council laid off 16 deputies to help fill a $5 million jail deficit. That was due to Tacoma and Lakewood sending their misdemeanor bookings to jails that charge lower rates.

While jail overtime continues to drain the county budget, the shortfall could have been worse this year.

The county’s corrections bureau projects saving nearly $900,000 in 2014 in outside medical costs, including hospital visits, Robinson said.