Quorum Court pulls appropriation ordinances for jail, juvenile detention center

It’s back to the drawing board for Sheriff Gerald Robinson after proposed six month budgets for the adult jail, the juvenile detention center and the Public Safety Sales Tax were pulled from the agenda of the Jefferson County Quorum Court on Tuesday night.

Both the adult jail and juvenile detention center are currently operating on three-month budgets, which will expire at the end of March. The same holds true for money from the Public Safety Sales Tax, which provides funding for both the sheriff’s department and juvenile detention center.

“The sheriff’s office is over budget,” Public Safety/Emergency Services Committee Chairman Herman Ginger said about pulling the three budgets. “We can’t spend what we don’t have and if we extended the budgets for another 90 days, they would be approximately $300,000 in arrears.”

Ginger said he had talked to the sheriff and said Robinson was “aware of the situation and he knows where cuts can be made that will be the least painful.”

Robinson, who was present for the meeting, declined to comment on the actions of the county’s legislative body.

As they were proposed, the adult jail would have received just over $2 million to last until June 30, while the juvenile center would have received $907,712 for the same period. The Public Safety Sales Tax total for six months would have been $952,847, with that figure broken down to provide $100,000 for rural fire protection, $452,847 for the sheriff’s department, and the remaining $400,000 for the juvenile detention center.

“This is not a fun time,” Ginger said. “This is not personal, it’s strictly business. This is crunch time and the Finance Committee and the Quorum Court are going to do our jobs.”

Ginger said new budgets will have to be drafted for the jail, juvenile detention center and sales tax by March 31, and a special meeting of the Quorum Court will be necessary to approve those budgets.

Earlier in the year, the court’s Finance Committee met twice with Robinson and administrators of both the adult and juvenile detention centers to try and work out a way to deal with a projected shortfall that could reach $2 million this year.

Those meetings resulted in proposals that included trying to impose a pay-for-stay fee at the juvenile center, housing more state prisoners at the juvenile center, and holding more federal prisoners for the U.S. Marshal’s Service.

“We’re losing population and we’re losing sales tax money,” Ginger said. “This is the first year that we haven’t had the money to do what we need and it’s not going to get any better.”

Also pulled was a proposed appropriation ordinance providing an additional $30,842 for the Jefferson County District Court to levelize the salaries for court employees between Division One and Division Two, based on years of experience.

Justice of the Peace Mandy Alford, chairman of the court’s Judicial Committee, pulled the ordinance, saying she wanted “more information” about the proposal.

Also on the subject of budgets, Justice of the Peace Lloyd Franklin III, who was serving as a member of the Finance Committee in the absence of Justice of the Peace Ted Harden, proposed a resolution requiring every county agency and department to provide a “realistic line item budget” by the April meeting of Quorum Court committees.

“I don’t want to wait until October then have them give us a budget that’s based on the previous budget,” Franklin said. “A budget of what they’re actually spending and what they actually need.”

Ginger seconded the resolution, which was adopted without dissent, saying that the Quorum Court was looking at “getting to a place where we can get real budgets.”

Some members of the court, including Ginger and Harden, have been critical of the practice of agencies and departments submitting the same budget year after year, despite increasing costs for products and services. Those have resulted in supplemental appropriations, some starting as early as January after a new budget had been approved in December.