By SCOTT PESZNECKER
Sheriffs' departments in rural counties are breathing a cautious, collective sigh of relief over the California Assembly's version of the state budget.
The Senate on Sunday approved a budget compromise to end the state's month-long budget deadlock, but in doing so cut millions of dollars in funding for rural sheriffs' departments.
The Assembly restored those funds on Tuesday, and the budget is now on its way to Gov. Gray Davis' desk for approval. Davis has said he will sign the proposal tomorrow.
Assemblyman David Cogdill, R-Modesto, who represents Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, voted for the plan.
"Every Californian has a right to feel safe at home, no matter where that may be," Cogdill said. "It is time to cut wasteful spending so that we are not forced to consider making reductions in vital services like public safety and education in the future."
However, because of the lateness of the state budget, the governor's signature won't guarantee the allocations for sheriffs' departments.
The state Legislature will vote on Aug. 18 whether to approve the sheriffs' funding, which is a "trailer bill" to the state budget bill. Until then, the money designated for sheriffs' departments will sit in the state's general fund.
Calaveras County Administrative Officer Tom Mitchell warned that although "everybody's making commitments" to approve the trailer bill, no formal action has been taken.
"The proof is in the pudding when it actually comes time," Mitchell said.
If the trailer bill is approved, the state budget would retain funding for school outreach programs, reimbursements for counties and cities to book out-of-area inmates and hold state parolees and train corrections officers. The one casualty would be high technology grants, which have been used to purchase new equipment.
The budget also would preserve Assembly Bill 443, which Davis approved two years ago to give $500,000 annual grants to rural sheriff's departments throughout the state. The grants are discretionary, so departments can apply the funding to their specific needs.