SALT LAKE CITY -- County jails across the state pick up the majority of the tab to house inmates who are the state's responsibility, officials say.
Gary Ricks, legislative fiscal analyst, said Friday the state's share for the fiscal year 2010-11 was $3 million from ongoing funds and $3 million from one-time funds.
For the upcoming 2011-12 fiscal year, only $3 million from ongoing funds has been budgeted, and that has county officials across the state concerned, said Reed Richards, an attorney from Weber County.
Richards, representing the Utah Sheriff's Association, spoke before the Infrastructure and General Government Joint Appropriations Subcommittee.
Committee members are considering how to allocate funds if revenue projections are higher than expected for the upcoming fiscal year.
The jail population counties are seeking funding for are inmates sentenced by a state judge to serve time in Utah State Prison, Richards said. But then the judge stays that sentence in lieu of probation, which includes a sentence in the county jail. This is a different population of inmates than those housed in county jails under contract with the state.
"That population is quite significant," Richards said.
Since 2001 it has doubled, but the funding from the state has not.
County officials have asked the state to pay at least half of the $79 a day it takes to house an inmate in the county jails.
"Four years ago, we came to what we thought was a pretty good agreement," Richards said. "The counties agreed to split the costs with the state."
But the economy tanked and the counties have been picking up a larger share of the tab because courts are ordering more people to serve jail time as part of their probation. The state is paying less than 25 percent of the daily cost, Richards said.
"The state is paying on the average $17 a day," Richards said.
"$17? I can spend $17 for myself at Wendy's," said Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley.
Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson said housing inmates who "belong in the state pen" is damaging county budgets.
He also said he remembers when he was serving as a state representative how frustrated he would get with federal unfunded mandates.
"This is placing an undue burden on our county governments," Gibson said about requiring counties to pay for inmates the state should pay for.
For Weber County, the impact is several million dollars a year the county has to find to house and feed that group of inmates, Gibson said.