County faces rising expenses

Recent budget requests reveal rising costs to be faced by the county. Bob Reed from the Southeast Kansas Regional Correctional Center met with the Bourbon County Commissioners this morning at the bi-weekly commissioners’ meeting in order to explain a request for a $200,000 increase in the corrections budget. Commission Chairman Warren said, “A $200,000 increase over 2013–that’s 2 mils.” Reed reported that most of the increase in costs is a result of out-of-county housing for inmates, as well as $40,000 in overtime from inmate transportation. The jail, which was built in the 1970’s, was intended to house 25 people, Reed explained. Reed said that it now houses 41 people, and that the county has had to house 31 inmates in other counties as of this morning. Reed said that his “men and women are run ragged” trying to keep up with transportation of inmates, and that these workers often come in on their days off.

County Attorney Terri Johnson said to the commissioners, “You have no control over the numbers [of inmates] . . . and it is very difficult.” Johnson offered to write a letter to the judges in the Bourbon County Judicial District in order to request their input in considering alternative options to incarceration in appropriate cases.

County Clerk Kendell Mason asked if an additional staff member might reduce the overtime expense to the county, to which Reed replied that an additional person would incur costs in insurance and vacation time, and that during vacation time taken by that employee, another staff member would have to work overtime to make up for the temporary reduction in staff. “You’re never going to cut out overtime, because something always happens,” Reed said, citing 18 years of experience in corrections.

Commission Chairman Warren mentioned that the budget for out-of-county inmate housing was $180,000 in 2012 and asked the reason for the change in 2013. Reed thought that perhaps corrections had fewer people incarcerated in 2012.

Warren asked about possibly housing inmates at Allen County, but Reed replied that Allen County had lost funding for Bourbon County inmates. Reed also mentioned that he is considering using Labette County in the future instead of Cherokee County. Reed explained that Bourbon County uses ACH Healthcare, while Cherokee does not, which incurs an extra expense for Bourbon County.

Reed brought up the possibility of building a new jail in the future. Reed explained that several pods in the jail are overcrowded because of space constraints. “The less people you have in a pod, the less problems you’re going to have out of the inmates,” Reed said. County Attorney Terri Johnson said regarding the building of a new jail, “It’s a finite expense,” versus the rising cost of housing inmates out of county.

Warren countered that the existing jail building would still incur an expense for the county on top of the cost of a new jail, and that the current jail building is not set up well to serve another purpose. Warren said, “It would be a high heating and air expense for no more people than you could get in it.”

Reed’s proposed budget for 2014 is $1,193,657.

In other business:

  • Lora Holderidge, Register of Deeds, presented her budget request, which decreased $200 from the past year for a total of $74,820.
  • County Attorney Terri Johnson presented the budget request for her department, which totals $252,846.60, and includes a promotion to Senior Level Secretary for Stacy Hanes, who has worked for the department for 4 years. The budget request also includes a raise for the Assistant County Counselor. “We’re kind of at a breaking point . . . I hope you know we work hard and want to give you good information,” Johnson said. One area of the budget that Johnson mentioned would increase a little from the past year is maintenance on electronics. Johnson explained that the server her department uses for their Full-Court and Full-Case programs through which they send and receive information with the courts system is a 2006 model. Johnson said she had been told the computer was “on its last legs” and that it was in need of replacement. Johnson brought up that the department has made a decrease in the area of commodities by reducing paper usage, and asked the commissioners if centralizing commodities purchases to a single vendor for all departments might be discussed in the future as a way to cut costs.
  • Rhonda Cole of the Bourbon County Judicial District presented her department budget request, which included a raise for the Bailiff position, but remained constant in all other areas for a total request of $227,107.
  • Commissioners approved the donation of $500 from the Special Parks fund to the Elks for last night’s fireworks display

 

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