Fewer inmates serving less time means Franklin County must find new ways to bring in more money next year to run its jail.
County officials said unfortunately it doesn't mean there's less crime.
It means Pasco offenders are getting sentenced to less time in jail because the city's judge is sentencing them to serve terms at the same time, rather than back to back.
Six years ago, Pasco inmates accounted for 48 percent of the jail's population. That compares to 25 percent in 2011, when the last figures were available.
The result is the city's jail bill has been slashed from $1.43 million in 2007 to about $711,600 budgeted this year.
The city started issuing concurrent sentences, some of which are served at the same time as county violations, after hearing complaints from the jail about overcrowding, Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield told the Herald later.
He said the system saves money and prevents potential confusion when inmates reach the end of one sentence.
Next year, the county is budgeting $900,000 in revenue from its contract with the city, said Franklin County Commission Chairman Rick Miller.
If the final amount ends up less than that, the county would have to give money back to the city. If it is a higher amount, the city would have to pay the county more.
The revenue discussion comes as the county is expanding its jail by 192 beds using the three-tenths of one percent public safety sales tax approved by county voters in 2011.
The county is budgeting for four new corrections officers for next year. The new hires will be paid for with the public safety tax and cost about $253,400.
"As we double the size of our jail, four more (officers) probably isn't bad at all," said Miller.
Commissioner Brad Peck said the county should look to fill any open beds in the new jail, which is expected to open next year, by trying to house state and federal inmates.
The jail should not have open cells for long regardless of what the city does, Peck said. "You don't build it for your current needs, you build it for the future," he told the Herald.
Crutchfield said it will be up to Municipal Court Judge David Petersen to decide whether to return to consecutive sentencing again after jail crowding eases.
"It seems to be working well," he said.
The county is projected to collect $24.2 million, not including its $632,000 in public safety tax, in 2014, Miller said.
That would leave it with a budget deficit of just over $440,000. But he expects the commission to work out the difference. "We go through that and make corrections so it's balanced," he said.
The budget year starts Jan. 1.
Franklin County commissioners are holding 2014 budget hearings each day this week starting at 8:30 a.m. in the commission's first-floor meeting room at the courthouse, 1016 N. Fourth Ave., Pasco.
On Wednesday, commissioners will have a regular meeting at 8:30 a.m. before continuing budget hearings at 10:45 a.m.
For a schedule, go to http://bit.ly/1dwWEdL.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; email@example.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom