Police funding faces ax

Fewer police officers could be protecting Peninsula streets as a result of the state’s budget crisis — but exactly how many will be cut won’t be known for months.

Three state funds that feed local police departments are facing the ax during this year’s state budget talks. The amount to be chopped countywide could be limited to a tolerable $600,000 or inflated to a painful $8 million.

For cities such as Belmont, the best-case scenario is a loss of about $34,000. The worst-case scenario could mean they wouldn’t be able to place a safety officer in public schools, and another officer could be removed from his or her beat, said City Manager Jack Crist.

One funding source at issue is the Citizens Option for Public Safety, or COPS program. That program gives each city in the county a minimum of $100,000for police officers. More populated cities receive as much as twice that, and the county government receives about $2.9 million in funding from COPS, according to an analysis paid for by the League of California Cities.

A second item facing cuts is funding for booking fees, which provides money to the Sheriff’s Office to help pay for the cost of booking criminals into the county jail. If that program is cut, cities will be mandated to pay the county for the booking costs, and that money could come out of police budgets, the analysis said.

Under the governor’s budget proposal released last week, which depends on an unpopular measure to borrow against the state’s lottery, those programs would be cut only 10 percent.

But an alternative budget plan proposed by the Legislative Analyst’s Office would entirely eliminate the programs.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office also proposed to move Proposition 172 funding that currently goes to police forces and move it elsewhere.

Most frustrating to Deputy Chief Mike Callagy of the San Mateo Police Department is the uncertainty. The department could face $48,000 in cuts, or $683,000 — and no one will know until the governor and Legislature pound out a final budget, which could take several months.

“It’s very, very difficult and frustrating not to have local control over your budget, when you’re trying to provide the highest level of services to your residents and businesses,” hesaid.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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