FARMINGTON — An assistant attorney general representing the Board of Corrections sent a letter to Franklin County’s attorney explaining why the state board believes the county’s corrections fund has a $500,000 surplus.
The state never stopped sending the county $135,517 annually in community corrections funds for programs and services since the jail was changed from full-service to a 72-hour holding center in 2009.
The county requested the state give it a more detailed explanation of why the Board of Corrections upped Franklin County’s annual payment to the state operational support fund by $100,000 to make it $730,576 for 2014-15.
County commissioners rejected sending the first half of the additional $100,000 in August.
Since the state changed Franklin County’s jail mission in 2009-10, the county has paid about $3.05 million to the state operational support fund, according to Assistant Attorney General Andrew Black’s letter.
The county raises $1.6 million each year for the jail. Operation of the jail costs about $1 million a year and the remaining money has been sent to the state since 2009.
Black said despite the county sending the operational support money, the county jail has generated annual surpluses from 2009-2010 through 2013-14 ranging from $99,498 to $139,109 for a total of $553,680, according to Black’s information.
“Forced, once again, with a projected budget deficit for (2014-15), the board sought fair and equitable ways to address this looming problem,” Black wrote. Knowing the (Franklin County Detention Center) was running a surplus that averaged in excess of $100,000 each year, the board decided to budget an increase in payment, raising it from $630,576 to $730,576, a move allowed by law. The board finalized this decision at its July 15 meeting and sent Franklin County a corresponding invoice for $365,288 on July 28 for half of the yearly payment, he wrote.
Admittedly, Black wrote, the invoice did not contain a comprehensive explanation for the board’s decision.
“It has now come clear that the county jail’s annual surpluses were the result of the county receiving community corrections funds despite having been subject to a major mission change,” he said. “These payments to (Franklin County Detention Center) were the result of the (Board of Corrections) failing to modify the statutorily directed distribution to (Franklin County) based on the substantial change in the nature and extent of correctional services that (the county jail) was providing.”
Under the law, the board has a right to adjust those payments.
The county does provide pretrial services for inmates that over five years averaged about $65,000 per year, commission Chairman Fred Hardy of New Sharon said during the commission meeting Tuesday with the Board of Corrections. The community corrections funds help offset that expense. He said it is up to the state to come up with any funds needed to help the jail system move forward and not Franklin County to pay for it.
The corrections board plans to address funding in a more comprehensive manner since the adjustment did not occur.
The board’s actions in this instance — increasing the county’s annual payment — were quite reasonable, Black wrote.
State Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, said he had no problem with the board adjusting the funds in the future, but it should not be allowed to go back and collect funds the county already received since it was not its mistake.
County Clerk Julie Magoon said the corrections board should look at making adjustments to the funding across the state and not single out Franklin County to implement a change.