Sheriff brings finance concerns to commissioners


By Alberta Stojkovic - The Sentinel



HINTON

HINTON


MOUNT GILEAD — Sheriff John Hinton attended Morrow County Commissioners meeting Aug, 1 along with Corrections Facility Administrator Captain Sara Fulk, Office Manager Lori Epling and Chief Deputy Troy Landon.

They laid out their concerns about getting through the year on their approved appropriations, set by the commissioners.

Epling said there is a balance in the Corrections facility fund of $513,000 with $265,000 already committed, leaving $250,000 to the end of 2018. She estimated that an additional $400,000 will be needed through December.

“We are at zero in our reserve fund,” Epling said. The budget request for 2018 was $1.7 million and the corrections facility received $406,000 from commissioners out of the general fund.

Epling said that in the past the Sheriff’s office was able to pull funds from reserves. This year they had to use much more from reserve housing fund for jail expenses. That is because the commissioners cut the amount they receive from the county’s general fund every year.

“The cost of everything is up,” said Fulk. “The costs of meals, utilities, and wages have all increased.”

Commissioner Tom Whiston said, “In other words we are not taking in enough money to pay expenses.”

INMATE COSTS RISE

It was discussed that ICE inmates (Immigration and Customs Enforcement inmates) are costing more than the federal government pays for them.

In 2009 Epling did a study showing the cost per person in Morrow County jail to be $65 per day. The federal government allowed $53.64 per day then and that has been the allowance for the past 10 years. It is also the amount that the correction facility charges for prisoners from other counties who are housed at Morrow County jail.

Landon said, “We have two million dollars less in the budget than 10 years ago. We have received $53.64 per day for several years and the cost of meals is up 12 percent.”

The capacity of the Morrow County Correctional Facility (jail) is for 126 people. The county presently houses 45-50 from Morrow County, with Lawrence County and Jackson County residents sending the largest numbers along with ICE inmates.

The income from ICE prisoners is presently 52 percent of revenue in 2017 for the facility or $726,714.72 of $1,375,812.00 total from other agencies. The next largest amount was from Lawrence County in 2017 of $429,763.68 and Jackson County of $86,223.64.

Earlier this year the Commissioners with the Sheriff raised the daily rate for new counties to $55 per day for inmates, and Jan. 1, 2019 the daily fee will be raised to $55 per day for all inmates from other counties.

Epling emphasized that their main purpose in coming to the commissioners in the summer was to give them notice of a possible shortfall well in advance. She that $616,000 is needed to be appropriated before the end of the year. With the amount in cash an additional $400,000 will be needed for the jail and $130,000 for law enforcement.

CONTRACT WITH ICE

Whiston asked about the possibility of renegotiating the ICE contract. He added that “we need to show ICE officials what our loss is carrying the ICE inmates.”

Hinton cautioned that new major updates for the jail are required if a new contract is renegotiated. If negotiations fell through, they could lose the present contract and it could not come back.

Some costly updates required are a recreation facility and barbershop.

Epling has been with the Sheriff’s office for 18 years and Fulk with corrections for 22 years. They agreed that the biggest change came about 10 years ago when Cuyahoga, Stark, Clermont and Richland counties opened their own larger facilities. When Morrow County lost those prisoners, the county began housing ICE prisoners.

“ICE bailed us out for a lot of years,” Whiston said.

Fulk said they sometimes have to turn away prisoners from other counties because the jail reaches its capacity. Morrow County prisoners may be sent to other counties when the facility is full.

Commissioner Burgess Castle said research is needed on showing cost per day at this time and also the cost to upgrade the prison to renegotiate the ICE contract.

Epling said she is open to the idea of further study and cost analysis. However, she said there are only herself and two others to carry out the financial and clerical functions for both the correctional facility and law enforcement.

She said it would require another person or service agency to do the research work for a thorough cost analysis.

Castle said it is the responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office to do the numbers on cost per day and upgrades for the correction facility.

HINTON
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By Alberta Stojkovic

The Sentinel