Franklin County clerk raises concerns on proposed jail budget

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FARMINGTON — Franklin County Clerk Julie Magoon expressed concerns Tuesday to commissioners about the proposed jail budget for 2017-18 being over the state-mandated 3 percent cap.

The jail budget is treated separate from the county budget.

“The jail budget is bare-bones,” she said.

There is nowhere to cut in the current numbers because of obligations, she said.

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The county reopened the jail to full operations in April 2015 after being a 72-hour holding facility for six years when the state consolidated county jails into one system. The system was dismantled in 2015 and control was returned to counties. However, the funding cap was not changed.

The jail budget was frozen at about $1.6 million for six years.

“Now costs keep going up,” Magoon said.

The county receives $181,981 from the state to provide programs for inmates and taxpayers’ foot the rest of the cost to operate the jail. The amount approved last year to run the jail was $1.89 million.

Magoon reviewed the proposed 2017-18 jail budget, which has not been made public, with Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. and the jail administrator, Maj. Doug Blauvelt.

“Overtime is a huge ticket item,” she said.

She said she does not want to keep chewing away at the jail reserve fund.

As of June 30, 2016, the fund had about $168,000, county Finance Manager Vickie Braley said.

There are a couple of issues driving the overtime, including built-in overtime in the corrections officers’ union contract, Magoon said.

“We have one year left on the contract,” she said. “Maybe we could go in with an opener to renegotiate overtime.”

That would mean commissioners would have to ask the union to reopen the contract and renegotiate over time. The union does not have to agree to it.

Overtime is used when someone takes a leave or someone leaves the county’s employment, Magoon said.

“There are a few areas we can look at to make it more beneficial to us, the county,” she said.

Magoon said overtime costs were $34,000 in fiscal year 2013, $43,000 in fiscal year 2014, $52,000 in fiscal year 2015, and $50,000 in fiscal year 2016.

This year, overtime costs for the first three-quarters of fiscal year 2017 are $52,000, she said. They budgeted $56,000.

There were 15 unionized corrections officers included in the last payroll, Treasurer Pam Prodan said.

After adjourning the meeting, commissioners continued to talk about the jail.

The state downsized the jail in 2009 and put a cap on spending, Magoon said.

“You would think it would be a local decision but it is not,” she said.

The state also requires medical and education services to be provided to inmates.

Commission Chairman Charles Webster of Farmington asked if they could decrease the proposed jail budget by $100,000.

“It is very tight,” Braley said.

In towns and county governments, there is an option to override a tax cap. But there is no option to override it at the jail.

Several counties across the state are seeking money from the state to help cover costs of operating jails, Magoon said.

Commissioners requested that a meeting be set up with Nichols and Blauvelt to discuss the jail.

dperry@sunmediagroup.net

Franklin County jail

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