Hey Pal, do you have about $12m I can borrow?
Last week our commissioners met to discuss the budget requests from the departments. To eliminate all the furloughs for the employees, restore retirement benefits, and meet the demands of all the Hall County departments, the county appears to be about ~$12m short ($11,996,760 to be exact).
You wonder what kind of impact SPLOST has on the budget; well, the county says they need $906,000 per year. Oh, that doesn’t include the mowers and field machines. What I love about the budget is that some department asked for a used rollback wrecker for $60,000!!!! Don’t we have commercial services that do that? Do we pay them $60k per year? How about the people to run it? Are we going into business now?
In the past, the county collected in the neighborhood of $40m per year in taxes. I believe that I read that there is some thought that they expect the digest to be down by 5% this year. The county expects to collect $36.4m in taxes. In order to meet the demand, the county will have to reduce spending or raise taxes. If they choose to raise taxes, they will need to increase property taxes by 25% (and this may still leave us short for the year after).
SO where do we cut? Well the big dog in the budget is the Sheriff’s office at ~$30m. That is 1/3rd of the budget. Half of their budget is spent on the detention center. The 2010 budget doesn’t seem to describe the revenue we receive for boarding out of county inmates, but I am going to assume that it is listed as a “Special Revenue Fund” bringing in ~$6.8m per year. When the new jail was completed, the Sheriff reported that “we will be returning close to a million dollars back to the county.” The problem is we are losing $8.8 million per year! Hmmm, seems like $8.8 million stands out for some reason.
I have to wonder if we really need to be housing other people’s problem children. I can’t imagine that we are being sent the best criminals. I have to wonder if the quality of prisoner could be impacting our own legal fees or worse, the health and safety of the Hall County prisoner that may be there for a mistake. I have an idea, privatize the jail. Outsource it!
Before you scream, we actually have a privatized jail in Hall County, the old jail. This paper published back in 1992 talks about the trend that was developing. Some studies indicate that privatized jails could save up to 15%, but since our jail contains about 75% of inmate from out of county, I think we would see a huge savings. In our case, I think that leasing the jail could be a boon for our county. We could potentially see an income from the least that would offset the cost of housing the ~300 prisoners from Hall County leaving the other 700 beds out there for the private firm to handle.
Privatizing the jails would be a start.
Hugh Hall County Akston