AUGUSTA — Jails in several Maine counties, including Androscoggin, teetered closer to layoffs Tuesday amid worries that money promised by the state might run out.

The state owes counties about $3 million to help fund 15 jails for the months of April, May and June. It likely will fall at least $1.4 million short, said Michael Tausek, executive director of the Maine Board of Corrections.

Some county jails might be forced to close cell areas, turn away incoming prisoners or furlough nonviolent inmates, rather than endanger the remaining corrections officers, leaders said.

“Every time we get a little deeper into this, the more alarming it becomes,” said Mark Westrum, chairman of the Board of Corrections.

“Where do we go? What now?” Westrum asked. “There’s going to be some really, really tough decisions that have to be made. I think we’re finally at that cliff.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said.

On Tuesday, Westrum and the board put off making many decisions. Instead, he asked sheriffs and jail administrators to return on May 14 with details of how they would manage reduced budgets.

Androscoggin County Sheriff Guy Desjardins said he may not have that long. The county is budgeted to receive $184,000 from the state to help cover the quarter.

Without it, the county likely will exhaust its payroll for the jail by mid-May. And by law, property taxes cannot meet the gap.

“There is no one in this room who has employees that work for nothing,” Desjardins said. “And I have an obligation to my employees that once I can’t make payroll, once I can’t make payment to my vendors, I have to put a stop to it.”

Unless the jail gets nearly all $184,000 from the state, Desjardins will have to begin layoffs, he said. If no more money comes from the state, he foresees laying off 45 of his 56 jail officers, forcing the jail to greatly reduce its inmate numbers. On Tuesday morning, the jail had 150 inmates, five more than Desjardins has defined as safe for the 23-year-old jail.

He wasn’t the only sheriff feeling the squeeze.

York County Sheriff Maurice Ouellette told the board that he alerted the union at his jail Monday of a possible layoff. He stands to lose as many as 25 corrections officers, he said.

Others told stories of crowding at the Penobscot and Aroostook county jails.

Aroostook County already ran out of money to meet its payroll. Instead of layoffs, the county covered the expense with a tax anticipation note, essentially using the county’s credit to cut paychecks.

“What can we do?” Aroostook County Administrator Douglas Beaulieu asked. “We can’t lay people off.” The alternative is to send more of Aroostook’s inmates south. Many already are transported to the jail in Houlton and Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, 167 miles to the south.

Members of the Board of Corrections agreed Tuesday to bail out Aroostook County with a payment of $305,000.

The board also agreed to withhold a planned third-quarter payment of $280,000 to the Somerset County Jail over its refusal to accept inmates from within the system.

The rest of the county system issues remained unresolved.

A bid to reopen Franklin County’s 72-hour holding facility as a full-service jail was put off to give county leaders more time to answer detailed budget questions and organize a public hearing.

Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. pressed the board to hold its hearing quickly and to allow him to reopen as soon as possible.

“We have 44 beds,” Nichols said. “We’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”

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