FARMINGTON — Franklin County’s attorney, Frank Underkuffler, told commissioners that the question of whether the Board of Corrections can ask for more money from the county is just as much an accounting question as a legal one.

Commissioners asked Underkuffler to review the state’s newly enacted county jail law, LD 1824, that gives the Board of Corrections more oversight of the jail system. Commissioners want to know if the Board of Corrections has the authority to cut $100,000 from the jail budget and if the county be penalized should commissioners refuse to send it.

That $100,000 would be sent to the Board of Corrections to help other jails in the system, increasing the county’s annual payment to $730,576 for 2014-15. It is the only one of the three jails that had its mission changed that faces an increased payment.

Under the new law, the state controller shall credit the other special revenue funds account of the program from any net county assessment revenue in excess of county appropriations in counties where jails or correctional services have been closed or downsized.

It also credits any net county assessment revenue in excess of county jail expenditures in counties where changes in jail operations pursuant to board directives under the law have reduced jail expenses.

Any net revenue in excess of county or regional jail expenditures resulting from efficiencies generated by the independent actions of a county or regional jail remains with the county’s or regional jail authority’s correctional services fund balance.

The county raises $1.62 million each year to operate the county jail. It takes approximately $1 million to run it. It is a cap developed by the state in 2008 when the county jail system consolidated. In the past, Franklin County has sent $630,576 each year to the state to help run other jails until the state’s request came in June.

The Franklin County Jail was reduced from a full-operational jail on July 1, 2009, to a 72-hour holding facility.

Underkuffler told commissioners that they need to determine where the $100,000 came from, wondering if it was the direct result of downsizing or the result of the county creating efficiencies in the jail operation. If the latter is the case, he said, the money should stay with the county.

He suggested the county go to the auditor and ask them to give an opinion.

Nichols said that the BOC said this is a one-time request to help get the jail system out of the hole and get it financially on track. Part of the reason he wanted Underkuffler involved, he said, is to see if the BOC legally can do it.

When the jail downsized, the workforce was reduced by nine or 10 people and that is part of the $630,000 that goes to the state, Jail Manager Maj. Doug Blauvelt said. They are intentionally shorting the county, he said.

Blauvelt has been very frugal and has made adjustments to have the jail run more efficiently under its new mission, Blauvelt said.

In the 2013-14 year that just ended, Nichols said they spent 97 percent of the budget. In the current year’s budget, they will be short come spring because of the BOC reducing its budget.

If they come up short, Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay said they could use money from the corrections surplus.

Commissioners voted Monday to set up $210,000 in reserves for a new jail roof, a new transport van and miscellaneous needs.

McGrane said his fear is if they don’t play by the BOC’s rules, then the jail could be shut down.

Nichols said he asked the BOC if requesting the $100,000 was an attempt to shut the county jail down and he was told no.

Commission Chairman Fred Hardy of New Sharon said the $100,000 in savings is a result of efficiencies and should stay with the county.

McGrane said the auditor has reviewed the finances of the jail at his request and suggested the reserves be set up. The auditor is expected to give a financial report on his findings, he said.

McGrane suggested they play nice and give the money to the state. If he had it his way, the money would go back to the taxpayers. But that is not allowed under the law.

Underkuffler said the county does not want to become a habitual violator of the law because the BOC could take over the jail. The letter sent by the BOC to the county requesting the $100,000 was a nicely expressed mandate.

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