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Sheriff’s office, jail take big bite from budget

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul

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.

Comments

whattheheck 2 years, 3 months ago

It is good to see the Commission is looking at upcoming budgets early on in the process. With the dwindling property tax base, there have to be cuts in spending since the turnip is running out of blood. And while those creating budgets always make an impassioned case for why money has to be had, I wonder if anyone ever looks to see how the so necessary budget was actually executed during a year. Asking for money and spending it are often two different things. The DCSS is a good example of execution gone wild--do what you want to do not what you say you will do.

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FryarTuk 2 years, 3 months ago

It's hard to believe that with the crime we have in DOCO the jail is filled only at two-thirds capacity. The enforcement units of DOCO Sheriff, DOCO police, APD, & DCSS police should be combined into a single department under a unified administrative structure. Court security, civil and marshal functions along with the jail could be combined separately. There is so much waste in law enforcement and with DOCO's constricted tax base and criminal activity maximizing revenue's use should be at the top of every elected official's agenda. The numerous departments have just become fiefdoms in the feudal political system here.

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Amazed2 2 years, 3 months ago

Unfortunately it cost a lot of money to operate a jail facility. Here in the United States we are mandated to treat inmates at a much higher level if care than many many other countrues. Thats why we have so much "repeat" business so to speak. Back when the facility was being built an oldet gentlman I know said to me you know these commissioners have no idea of what this jail cost. He said they understand what construction cost to build it but that will be the cheap part. I now understand what Mr Sam meant.

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Amazed2 2 years, 3 months ago

Also as the Jail was completed if you remember those same politician commissioners that wanted to build this cash monster were all shocked when Jamil Saba needed to hire additional staff to operate it. Seems they never understood the business end of crime and jails

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