Governor Deval Patrick's Budget Recommendation - House 2 Fiscal Year 2011

Governor's Budget Recommendation FY 2011

Update on County Sheriffs Transition

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Governor Patrick    FY2011 House 2 Budget Recommendation:
    Issues in Brief

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


A year ago, Governor Patrick proposed the alignment of all 14 Massachusetts state and county sheriffs under the state budgeting and finance laws. At that time, Massachusetts had seven sheriffs operating as state agencies under the state accounting and budgeting system and seven sheriffs operating as county departments under their respective county accounting systems but with their operations predominantly funded by the Commonwealth. Governor Patrick proposed to reform this discrepancy and bring all the sheriffs onto the state’s budgeting and accounting system to provide consistency, transparency and efficiency in budgeting and improve public safety.

The Legislature approved the Governor’s proposal through enactment of the sheriff transfer legislation, chapter 61 of the Acts of 2009, which was approved by the Governor on August 6, 2009. This act transferred the seven county sheriff departments to the Commonwealth effective January 1, 2010.  [ Chapter 61 of the Acts of 2009 was later amended by Chapter 102 of the Acts of 2009. ]  Since then, sheriff departments have successfully transitioned onto the state budgeting and accounting system, and all sheriff employees have been placed on the state payroll. Appropriations have been established to support sheriff department operations for the balance of this fiscal year. Thus, all 14 sheriff departments are now functioning as independent state agencies within the Executive Branch of state government.  Below is the 12 year timeline of the transition of each of the Sheriff Departments. 

Transition Begins
July 1, 1997 July 11, 1997 July 1, 1998 January 1, 1999 July 1, 1999 July 1, 2000
Franklin Sheriff's Department Middlesex Sheriff's Department Worcester Sheriff's Department Hampshire Sheriff's Department Essex Sheriff's Department Bekshire Sheriff's Department
Hampden Sheriff's Department


Transition Complete
January 1, 2010
Barnstable Sheriff's Department Dukes Sheriff's Department Norfolk Sheriff's Department Suffolk Sheriff's Department
Bristol Sheriff's Department Nantucket Sheriff's Department Plymouth Sheriff's Department  


What Has Changed?

  • All sheriff departments have separate line items for departmental operations, subject to legislative appropriation.
  • All sheriff departments utilize the state accounting system (MMARS) and human resources and payroll systems (HR/CMS).
  • All sheriff departments must comply with state finance rules and regulations.
  • All sheriff department employees are state employees with state health insurance and pension benefits.
  • Sheriff department assets, including buildings, vehicles, and land, have transferred to the Commonwealth.
  • As state agencies, all sheriff departments are subject to annual review by the State Auditor.

Impact on the Fiscal Year 2010 & Fiscal Year 2011 Budget


  • All revenues previously collected by the counties and dedicated to sheriff operations, including deeds excise revenue and federal inmate revenue, are now remitted to the Commonwealth. Deeds excise revenue, a significant funding source for all county sheriff departments prior to the transition, is now a general receipt of the Commonwealth and will cease to be a dedicated funding stream for sheriff departments.


  • In fiscal year 2010, half-year appropriations are established in the state budget to support the Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk sheriff departments. The total fiscal year 2010 sheriff spending for these 7 sheriffs is $92 million for the period January through June 2010. This does not represent new state spending as the County Corrections Reserve line item (8910-0000) previously funded sheriff department operations.
  • In fiscal year 2011, the total full-year funding for the Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk sheriff departments is $180 million, approximately double the half-year fiscal year 2010 total appropriation.
  • In fiscal year 2011, funds from the County Corrections Reserve Account (8910-0000) will be transferred to the Group Insurance Commission to pay for costs associated with health and retiree benefits. As state agencies, health care and retirement costs will no longer be paid directly out of sheriff departmental budgets.

Advantages of Sheriff Transition

Greater Fiscal Stability - During the seven years (fiscal year 2003-fiscal year 2009) prior to the transition to the state, about 16% of funding for sheriffs relied on deeds excise revenue, a transfer tax assessed on the sales price of real estate. The volatility of the housing market has made the deeds excise revenues difficult to predict. Over the period fiscal years 2007-2009, deeds excise revenue has decreased by over 50%. This funding uncertainty inhibits the sheriffs’ ability to budget properly and to execute their public safety missions. 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.

One State Sheriff System - The county sheriffs are no longer under entirely different budget cycles and funding mechanisms. Having 14 state sheriffs opens the door to further coordination of policy goals for all sheriffs, such as increasing economies of scale as one group, unifying public safety approaches statewide, maximizing services for inmates statewide, standardizing all inmate data and having a more coherent funding approach.

Increased Oversight - Under a uniform system, the Executive Office for Administration and Finance (A&F) and the Legislature can track sheriff-related expenses, revenue and personnel with greater detail. All sheriffs now process their accounting through MMARS and place their employees in the state’s payroll system (HR/CMS). These two steps provide a greater understanding of the sheriffs’ fiscal picture and ensure more accountability to state finance rules and regulations.

Cost Savings - The cost of health benefits for county corrections active employees and retirees is reduced by a minimum of $6-8M in fiscal year 2011. This estimate is based on comparing fiscal year 2010 half-year actual sheriff health care costs and Group Insurance Commission fiscal year 2010 projections. Additionally, the Commonwealth is self-insured for buildings, automobiles, and professional liability. As such, these will no longer be expenses from the sheriff operational budgets, resulting in approximately $1 million in fiscal year 2011 savings.

Prepared by Palak Shah, Executive Office for Administration and Finance ·
For more information contact: (617) 727-2040

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