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City Banking On Jail Booking Payments

POSTED June 8, 2011 1:11 a.m.
As Gov. Jerry Brown continues pushing his tax plan toward the end of the fiscal year, Oakdale bean counters are closely watching the status of the state’s vehicle license fee extensions as they are finalizing city budgets.
Without the continuation of 15 percent vehicle license fee (VLF) assessments, the city of Oakdale will be bound for booking costs for those arrested and booked into the county jail by its police.
State reimbursements through the VLF that covered these costs to county sheriffs were slated to end June 30, 2011.
In May, Governor Brown signed SB 94, a bill that extended the time frame for the state to notify and collect vehicle registration fees from California vehicle owners. This action buys only two months to find a funding solution for local law enforcement and city coffers.
California Government Code Section 29550 authorizes sheriffs to adopt and charge the fees to cover half of the actual administrative costs, including applicable overhead expenses. Since 2006, the VLF has covered this cost to municipalities.
“I’ve been attending monthly chiefs’ meetings and this topic has been a frequent item of discussion,” said Oakdale Police Chief Marty West. “My last update from the state chiefs association was that it (state reimbursement) was going to continue.”
There are three pending assembly bills addressing this crucial source of law enforcement funding. Democrat and Republican members have expressed strong support for continuing the reimbursements, although no single plan has yet to earn support to meet the two-thirds vote requirement.
Another option would be a tax increase that would have to be approved by voters.
In anticipation of this expense, the police department still set aside $40,000 allowing for county jail booking fees in its initial stripped-down budget.
Jail booking fees have been an ongoing topic of debate between municipalities and counties since the California Legislature allowed counties the authority to charge the fees in 1990.
Cities take the side that the booking fees are a way of counties shifting fiscal burdens to cities, thus draining police departments of needed funds that could be used for other resources. Counties claim the fees are an important source of revenue and result in the avoidance of unnecessary arrests, provide alternatives to nonviolent offenders such as citations in the field, and ease the population caps under which county jails operate.
West said the chiefs’ meetings have also included discussion about revising arrest procedures to include more in-field citation releases including the possibility to include some non-violent felonies. The revision would also keep more officers on the street from being taken out of service for prisoner transports to the county jail in Modesto.
According to West, the last figures showed Stanislaus County billed the City of Oakdale approximately $85 for each jail booking. The figure is likely to rise if the booking fees are reinstituted but West said he wouldn’t see the actual amount from the billings until a few months into the fiscal year.
Neighboring San Joaquin County charges $136 per booked suspect.
“The worst case scenario is that the fees will be charged,” said West. “Hopefully though, the legislature comes through as planned.”
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