County Sheriffs Transition

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Governor Patrick    FY2010 House 1 Budget Recommendation:
    Policy Brief

    Deval L. Patrick, Governor
    Timothy P. Murray, Lt. Governor


Governor's Proposal

Governor Patrick proposes to align the Massachusetts State and County Sheriffs under the state budgeting and finance laws. Massachusetts currently has 14 State and County Sheriffs that perform the same function, but operate under two different accounting systems. The 7 State Sheriffs operate under the state accounting system, including payroll, health care and retirement, while the 7 County Sheriffs continue to operate within a hybrid system that includes county, state and federal funding while using the county accounting system. Despite operating under the county accounting system, County Sheriffs receive 83% of their funding for operations the state and federal governments. In a companion bill to H.1, Governor Patrick proposes to reform the funding and accounting system for these 7 Sheriffs, which will provide consistency, transparency and efficiency in budgeting.

The volatility of the housing market has made the deeds excise revenues difficult to predict and to utilize as a stable funding source. Over the past year alone, deeds excise revenue has decreased by over 30%. The six month comparison charted below illustrates the volatility month to month for the first six months of fiscal year 2008 and fiscal year 2009. Given that county funding through deeds excise accounts for approximately 17% of the total County Sheriffs' funding, this unstable source of revenue has created year end deficiencies on an annual basis. This funding uncertainty prevents the Sheriffs from budgeting properly and prevents the state from gaining an accurate view of the fiscal situation of the Sheriffs and the Houses of Corrections. Transferring the County Sheriffs to the state system will allow all Sheriffs to know their annual appropriation for a given fiscal year and allow them to plan accordingly while taking advantage of the economies of scale that the state can offer.

Deeds Excise Tax Revenue Volatility - 2 Year Comparison

#1 -- Bar graph illustration of FY08 Deeds Excise tax revenue from July to December.  All 6 months generated in excess of $3M in revenue.    Bar graph illustration of FY09 Deeds Excise tax revenues for same 6 month period.  All were below or only slightly above $3M in revenue.

State Sheriffs

The seven State Sheriffs (Berkshire, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex and Worcester) function under the constitutional arm of the government and receive a direct state appropriation in the budget. Their employees are state employees, receive state health and retirement benefits, and their operations utilize the state accounting, human resources, and payroll systems.

County Sheriffs

The seven County Sheriffs, (Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Suffolk) are considered departments of the existing counties and receive their funding through 6 sources as allocated by the County Government Finance Review Board. The current funding sources include state General Fund appropriations for operations and Shattuck Hospital expenses; a percentage of the county deeds excise revenue and a County Maintenance of Effort (MOE) contribution; and federal revenue received for housing federal inmates.

Chart outlining the 6 sources of income for each of the 7 county sheriffs.   Pie chart illustrating that the largest funding source, accounting for nearly 75% of county sheriff budgets, is the state subsidy they receive from the annual budget.

Advantages of Reform


Each Sheriff will have a separate line item for the operation of his or her department and all employees will become state employees with state health insurance and pension benefits. Additionally, the County Corrections account (8910-0000) will be used to allocate the costs associated with health and retiree benefits to GIC and PERAC. All revenues previously collected by the county to fund the Sheriffs will now be deposited into the General Fund.

Prepared by the Executive Office for Administration and Finance · Rooms 373 & 272 · State House
For more information contact:
Michelle Small (