Budget for jail will be tighter

Friday, January 7, 2005

CHARLESTON - Spending at the Mississippi County Detention Center must be reigned in, according to county officials.

During a public hearing on the 2005 budget at the their regular meeting Thursday, county commissioners reviewed a statement showing changes in fund balances and a spreadsheet of law enforcement fund financial figures from 1997 to present.

County Clerk Junior DeLay said if the law enforcement fund had stayed within budget for expenditures and realized budgeted revenue in 2004, a transfer of only $290,000 from general revenue would have been needed instead of $622,000.

While explaining line item increases in the law enforcement fund, DeLay said it may take a year to get a true idea of what actual operating expenses are at the jail. "These were fudged with," DeLay said of the 2004 figures.

Expenditures from the fund were about $195,000 over budget, DeLay said.

Revenue from boarding Immigration and Naturalization Service prisoners was $322,000 less than expected and budgeted for, according to DeLay. Reimbursements from the Department of Corrections was actually up at $262,000 with only $142,900 budgeted.

Jim Blumenberg, presiding commissioner, said the purchase of pre-prepared food is largely responsible for the food expense line item going up $2,000 with fewer prisoners boarded during the year. "That got out of hand," he said, estimating it bumped the cost for food up from $2 per day per inmate to $4.

Commissioner Martin Lucas said food costs jumped $10,000 in a single month due to the pre-prepared foods.

Law enforcement salaries went up from $1.04 million to $1.13 million. Fringe benefits went up from $272,445 to $355,733 although DeLay noted part of that increase is due 13 months of health insurance premiums being paid this year.

DeLay noted of other line item increases that "a lot of these other expenses are related to personnel."

An additional $41,370 to board the county's prisoners in Pemiscot County early in 2004 when the grand jury handed down indictments and the jail was full with INS prisoners is shown as an increase in the inmate-related expenses line. Commissioners said INS pays about double what it cost to board prisoners at Pemiscot County, so the county came out ahead.

In related news, commissioners confirmed Bob Whitehead is the new jail administrator after being appointed to the position by the county's new sheriff, Keith Moore.

Looking at the county's ending fund balances, DeLay noted that transfers to other funds totaling $658,000 contributed to the general revenue fund's $1.7 million in expenditures for the year.

The transfers are reflected as $36,000 of the assessment fund's revenue and $622,000 of law enforcement's revenue.

DeLay noted total revenue was up as $730,000 in sales tax was budgeted for general revenue when it actually brought in $827,523.

Property tax revenue for the fund was also up by about $50,000.

In other Mississippi County business during Thursday's meeting:

* Commissioners approved the purchase of a Tommy Lift for the back of one of the county road and bridge department's shop trucks.

The lifts list for about $1,850 installed, according to Blumenberg, and will lift between 1,200 and 1,400 pounds.

The lift will be used to load objects like truck and motor grader tires and 55-gallon drums of oil into the truck. Employees will often try to load these types of items alone "and that's where you get back injuries," Blumenberg said.

Blumenberg said they also need to find out how many trucks the road department has and get rid of any problem vehicles. "We need to get an inventory on what they've got out there and what they're used for," he said.

* Commissioners said they have received reports of potholes in county roads but crews can't patch them with blacktop right now, although they are being filled with gravel.

* Blumenberg said he intends to meet with the county's elected officials and address "a few problems we don't think should be going on."

He declined to offer any more details other that to say the problems, while not big, have been going on for years and need to be taken care of before they get out of hand. The discussion will cover "county policies and procedures and ethically running your office," he said.

DeLay predicted the budget will be ready by Thursday or Jan. 20.

* Commissioners approved the purchase of five new radios for the road and bridge department for $950 each from G&D Communications in Sikeston.

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