Jail can’t operate on proposed budget, says Muscogee Co. Sheriff - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

Jail can’t operate on proposed budget, says Muscogee Co. Sheriff

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

The Muscogee County Sheriff has asked the Columbus City Council for $2-million more than what is in the Mayor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015.

Sheriff Darr says his jail has over 1,200 inmates and with those inmates come costs and a standard of living that's mandated by the state. One of the requirements is a certain level of health-care given to inmates. Darr told council that his office has limited control over the rising healthcare costs and the contracts he has with certain healthcare providers. The line item budgeted for healthcare is nearly $500,000 more than what the Mayor proposed.

“If this was your brother, your sister, your son or your daughter in the county jail, you would definitely expect and want that they're getting adequate care,” Sheriff Darr said.

Over the past 4 years, the Sheriff's Office has spent about $7 million dollars over-budget. They're on track to make that $9 million this year. Darr says if his office is not fully funded -- it's inevitable that his office will continue to run a deficit. He says not receiving adequate funding is the reason his office has been in the red during past years. The overall cost of properly housing inmates has also risen and he says he has limited control on the costs required to hold inmates.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson says getting the Sheriff's Office their full $2-million is not realistic given the city's tight budget.

“We're sort of running out of options here because we've got to keep the level of service. I think there's a consensus that we want to keep the level of jobs to provide the service that our citizens expect,” said Tomlinson.

But Tomlinson says Tuesday’s meeting was a good first step in the Sheriff's budget process. Council was even able to point out a discrepancy with a health contract that cut the difference between the Sheriff’s and Mayor’s proposed budget to $1.6 million. Tomlinson says Darr will meet with the Finance Department and is confident the parties will be able to find some additional savings out of the $2-million difference.

Last year, the city was able to absorb the deficit through pulling from the Sheriff's Office’s reserve fund. With that fund running low the city doesn't have much room if the Sheriff’s Office goes over budget again.

Council has to adopt a final city FY15 budget by July 1, the first day of FY15. There are several public hearings on the proposed budget scheduled for July.

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David Hurst

David Hurst, a graduate of the Univ. of Georgia, focuses on how your tax dollars are being spent.
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