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Jail budget to exceed $1 million

With expected operating costs exceeding $1 million, the McCreary County Jail situation continues to be a major strain on county finances.

As the Fiscal Court prepares to develop a budget for the next fiscal year, the main concern for County officials, with limited revenues, is how to cut costs to accommodate the increasing costs of housing and transporting inmates in other counties.

During Thursday’s Fiscal Court meeting, Judge Executive Doug Stephens presented Magistrates with a proposed budget for the Jail Fund that increased expenses by more than a quarter of a million dollars.

The proposed budget of $1,028,654 is more than $250,000 over what was budgeted last year, with inmate housing being the main reason of the sharp increase.

Judge Executive Doug Stephens informed the Fiscal Court the tentative budget was based off projected expenses for the current year, which is expected to run significantly over budget.

With estimated revenues for the Jail Fund only about $126,000, the remainder of the funding would have to come from the General Fund. Over $888,000 would be needed from the General Fund to cover expenses according to the proposed budget.

That amount represents more than 85 percent of revenues gained from the Occupational Tax, leaving only about $200,000 to cover expenses in other funds.

Judge Stephens said the housing cost is one factor that is hard to control, but he is doing what he can to try and keep costs down as much as possible.

The average cost of housing an inmate is about $30 per day, but Stephens said he is always looking for cheaper alternatives.

Using the holding cell at the Courthouse is an option during business hours, but it isn’t feasible during the evenings and late-nights when the majority of arrests seem to occur.

During the day prisoners sometimes have the possibility to be held for a short time until a bond is issued, but that option isn’t available after hours, and there is no way for the County to hold a prisoner for brief periods so a transport officer could make one run with several inmates at a time.

While many line items in the proposed budget are nearly identical to the budget introduced for the 2015-16 fiscal year, several items related to housing show a marked increase.

The biggest increases fall under two specific line items: Contract with other government agencies (housing) and Contract with private agencies (home incarceration.)

Last year only $500,000 was allocated to housing, with $12,500 for private contacts. In the proposed budget those amounts have increased to $750,000 and $30,000 respectively.

Other increases include an additional $6,500 (to $9,500) for contracted prisoner transport through other agencies, an extra $700 (up to $1,200) for office supplies, $150 more for training (to $400), $500 more for travel ($1,000), an additional $1,000 for maintenance ($2,000) and an extra $800 for miscellaneous.

Another significant increase over last year is in administrative insurance, with the total budgeted amount jumping to $24,000 from $18,250.

The only projected decrease in expenses is in fuel costs, which dropped $3,000 to $12,000 due to lower gasoline prices.

Other line items, such as salaries and fringe benefits remain the same from the previous year.

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