Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul
ALBANY — In their ongoing effort to get a jump-start on reining in spending for the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, County Administrator Richard Crowdis and the three members of the Dougherty County Commission’s Finance Committee met with Sheriff Kevin Sproul and members of his staff Friday to discuss ways of cutting costs without impacting public safety.
Committee Chairman Lamar Hudgins prefaced the meeting with Sproul, Dougherty County Jail Administrator John Ostrander, Chief Deputy Robert Daniels and department administrator Col. Mark Shirley with a reminder of the purpose for the meeting.
“We’ve been given a mandate to find cuts in the county’s budget, and we’re here today to ask you how you can help us,” Hudgins said. “Your budgets are now 36 percent of our overall budget, so we wanted to start this process with you.”
Noting that 815 inmates were housed in the 1,230-bed jail as of Thursday, Sproul said his department is torn between a desire to bring in more revenue to address budgetary concerns and its objective of decreasing the jail population by curtailing criminal activity and recidivism.
“We’re in a ‘Catch 22’ situation with the jail,” the sheriff said. “The more inmates we have, the more revenue we’re going to generate. But we want to reduce crime so that our inmate population goes down as well.”
Cutting costs, as Ostrander pointed out, is made more difficult by the fact that $9.5 million of the jail’s $13 million-plus budget is used for payroll expenses.
“You take out the personnel costs, the gas and oil, the medical and the food services, and you see the actual operations of our facility are being carried out on less than $1 million,” the jail administrator said. “And we have positions that must be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If I didn’t show up, no big deal. If one of the pod administrators is not there, it is a big deal and we have to fill his position.
“We understand what you guys are going through with this budget. We review our budget officially on a monthly basis, but we review it unofficially on an almost daily basis. We’re looking at every budget line because every penny helps.”
Shirley said efforts to cut costs were hampered by duties that essentially became unfunded mandates.
“We can’t control what judges expect for security, and Sheriff Sproul has made it clear he’s going to back the judges in our court system,” Shirley said. “We sometimes have to pull deputies off the road to work security.
“We’re also working with the state to collect payments for serving papers to collect child support. We might make two or three or four visits before we find the person we’re looking for, and the state is supposed to pay us $50 per visit. Child Recovery is paying us only for the trips where papers are delivered, and that’s ended up costing us $200,000 to $300,000 in lost revenue.”
Budget information provided by county officials shows Sheriff’s Department expenditures for FY 2012 were $3,375,168, while jail expenditures for that fiscal year were $13,584,789. Salaries and benefits packages accounted for $12,882,852 of the total expenses between the two.