Court expected to approve jail budget

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By Calen McKinney

Magistrates are expected to consider approving the first-year budget for Taylor County's new jail tomorrow night.

The budget was approved by Taylor County Detention Center Committee members at a special meeting Feb. 28.

As expected, according to budget figures presented by Taylor County Jailer Rick Benningfield, the County may face a shortfall of nearly $300,000.

The budget includes nearly $1.6 million in estimated revenue for the jail's 2008-2009 fiscal year.

That revenue, according to Benningfield's figures, includes $575,000 for housing state prisoners and $200,000 for housing prisoners from other counties.

Other revenue included in the budget will come from state reimbursements, booking fees, DUI fees, court costs, inmate work release, home incarceration fees, jail bond fees and fees from prisoners.

One-time revenue, according to the budget, will be the $325,000 and interest earned from the sale of Taylor Fiscal Court's 10 acres of land previously selected as a site for the jail.

Expenses in the budget, according to Benningfield's figures, total just more than $2.5 million, leaving a deficit of about $1.3 million.

However, County Treasurer Melissa Williams told the Committee that the County currently contributes about $965,000 to its jail fund. After subtracting that amount, she said, the shortfall falls to about $300,000.

The largest expenses in the budget include more than $440,000 for deputy salaries, $165,000 for medical services, $136,000 for food, $265,000 in principal payments, $461,000 in interest payments and $240,000 for employee insurance.

Benningfield said his figures are estimations based on calculations from nearby jails similar in size to Taylor County's. He said Department of Corrections officials, however, have said they think his revenue estimations are low.

Magistrate James Jones told Committee members that, like with any budget, actual figures can't always be accurately predicted. However, he said, the Committee needs to approve the budget so magistrates can consider it.

Taylor Circuit Clerk Rodney Burress made a motion to approve the budget. Taylor County Sheriff John Shipp seconded the motion, which was unanimously approved.

Magistrates gave final approval last month to an ordinance allowing the County to apply for a $500,000 to $1 million loan from the Kentucky Association of Counties, if necessary, to pay for jail startup costs. According to Benningfield's budget, startup costs will total about $360,000.

In November, Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said magistrates had been given a preliminary jail budget that estimated the County could face a shortfall of nearly $300,000.

He asked magistrates to look over the budget and come to the Court's December meeting with ideas as to how to combat that shortfall.

Jones told magistrates at the Court's December meeting that the loan, if it becomes necessary, would be repaid with jail revenue or excess funds.

According to figures included in the magistrates' December court meeting packet, monthly repayment of a $500,000 loan over a five-year period would cost the County about $9,500. A $750,000 loan over the same period would cost about $14,000 each month and a $1 million loan would cost more than $18,000 monthly.

Actually approving a loan would have to come back to the Court for approval of interest rates and repayment schedules.

At a Detention Center Committee meeting last October, Committee members were presented with a preliminary jail budget that left a deficit of a little more than $2 million. After discussion, Committee members eliminated about $800,000 of that deficit by making cuts. Cuts were made to several items, including changes in various salaries, the number of employees and equipment.

At that meeting, the Committee also discussed two ways to address the potential shortfall, including implementing a sunset tax to increase the County's occupational tax rate until enough money is collected to offset the shortfall or simply borrowing enough money to pay for the shortage. Magistrates, however, later opted to borrow the money, if that becomes necessary.

Taylor County's jail is slated to open in August or September, several months later than originally planned. As of the last Taylor Fiscal Court meeting, the building was about 65 percent complete.

Taylor Fiscal Court will have its regular monthly meeting tomorrow at 6 p.m. in the Taylor Circuit Courtroom of the Taylor County Courthouse. The meeting is open to the public.

- Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.