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County Council To Consider New Jail Spending, Possible HHS Levy Increase

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish presenting his budget to county council on Oct. 7. [Matthew Richmond / ideastream]
County Executive Armond Budish at Cuyahoga County Council

Cuyahoga County Council is kicking off hearings on the county’s next two-year budget this week. The biggest proposed funding changes are for the troubled county jail and, maybe, the Health and Human Services budget.

County Executive Armond Budish’s budget would include $2.5 million for a diversion center, providing defendants with mental illness with treatment and housing instead of sending them to the county jail.

The budget also would provide $1 million for pretrial services, making it possible for more defendants to await trial outside the jail – a move bail reform activists have been calling for.

The goal of both spending proposals is to bring down the jail population, Budish told the council Monday.

“Overcrowding is one of the biggest issues we face. And we’re not alone in this. Jails across the country struggle with this problem,” he said. 

The population of the jail was 1,824 as of Oct. 7, the day Budish presented his budget proposal preview – still well above the capacity of 1,765.

The budget would include funding for 60 new guards and 30 new sheriff’s deputies at the justice center.

Budish’s budget also proposes moving $5 million from the general fund to cover a shortfall in the Health and Human Services budget.

“And that is not sustainable," Budish said. "As costs steadily rise, the current level of funding we have for health and human services simply is not enough for the increasing needs we have as a county.”

In May, Cuyahoga County officials projected the Health and Human Services budget will face a $33.5 million budget deficit before its levy is up for renewal in 2020, due in large part to the large numbers of children entering foster care as part of the ripple effect of the opioid crisis.

One of the two levies that covers the HHS budget is up for renewal next year and the county may seek an increase, Budish said Monday.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media who focuses on criminal justice.