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Jail authority gets extra time to repay $1.2 million loan so it can make payroll
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Jail authority gets extra time to repay $1.2 million loan so it can make payroll

Tulsa County approved the extension of the $1.2 million loan used to pay Tulsa Jail workers.

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The Tulsa County Budget Board agreed Tuesday to give the Criminal Justice Authority another month to repay a $1.2 million loan it used to pay Tulsa Jail employees in November.

The Criminal Justice Authority administers funding for the Tulsa Jail and related criminal-justice services, and the loan had come from the county’s Risk Management Fund, which is used to help pay for the county’s health insurance program.

“There is a point we can’t do this anymore,” said County Treasurer Dennis Semler.

Speaking at a special meeting of the Budget Board, which includes the county’s eight elected officials, Fiscal Officer Tom Gerard said the authority used a $500,000 loan from the Sheriff’s Cash Fee account to cover jail payroll in October. That loan has been repaid.

Gerard said he had planned to use county jail tax collections to repay the $1.2 million loan, but that would leave the authority short of funds for December’s payroll.

After a lengthy discussion, the Budget Board decided to defer repayment for a month to allow December’s jail sales-tax collections to be used for the jail’s December payroll. It is possible the authority will need to borrow another $500,000 from the Sheriff’s Cash Fee account to cover its $1.8 million monthly payroll, Gerard said.

The authority’s budget this year is $36 million. The jail, with an annual budget of $29 million, is the largest entity overseen by the authority and the source of the current shortfall.

Tuesday’s meeting was to determine how to address the shortfall — either by cutting authority expenditures, including those at the jail, or through additional funding provided by other county offices.

Several county elected officials pressed the Sheriff’s Office on whether they had looked at reducing costs at the jail.

“I have never heard any talk about any cost savings in that area,” said County Clerk Pat Key.

Sheriff Stanley Glanz said his agency is looking to cut costs wherever it can but that it will take a reduction in the inmate count for any real savings to be realized.

Undersheriff Tim Albin said personnel costs are the largest expenditure at the jail but that cutting employees is not a realistic option. State law requires that the jail maintain a certain level of supervision, Albin said, often leading to mandatory overtime.

“This is not like Quik-Trip, where you need three clerks and you are one short, so it takes someone a little longer to get their Slurpee,” he said.

The bulk of the authority’s shortfall is the result of higher-than-expected overtime costs at the jail and lower-than-expected sales- and use-tax collections, according to Gerard.

The authority had included $1.2 million in collections from the April sales tax approved by voters to build a new Juvenile Justice Center and additional pods at the jail. But the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office later advised the authority that those funds could not be used for current operations.

The authority had also expected to collect $400,000 in use taxes but is now estimating collections to be closer to $200,000.

Another $600,000 in funding would be lost if the Sheriff’s Office is allowed to keep revenue collected from inmate phone calls, which the sheriff has requested.

Glanz told his fellow Budget Board members that he was asked by the Sales Tax Overview Committee to retain the phone fees to ensure that he had a sufficient reserve fund.

Negotiating teams from the Criminal Justice Authority and the city of Tulsa recently agreed to the terms of a new city/county jail agreement. It has been estimated that the proposed deal — which must be approved by the Tulsa City Council, the Board of County Commissioners and the authority — would cost the city approximately $800,000 to $1.3 million a year.

But figures provided by the Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, based on inmate counts for the first week of November, put the annual cost at $865,000.

By comparison, rates approved by county commissioners after the old city/county jail deal expired Oct. 31 would have the city paying close to $3 million a year.

Commissioner John Smaligo said that if the sheriff’s figures are correct, he likely would not vote for the new agreement. He noted that the city of Tulsa would be paying the Criminal Justice Authority less to operate its municipal jail than Broken Arrow residents pay to operate their municipal jail.

“I just don’t know if I can support a resolution that gives away jail services at (a) ridiculously cheap” price, Smaligo said.

Mayoral Chief of Staff Jarred Brejcha said the city expects that the cost of sharing a jail is less expensive than running two separate jails.

“The comparison of Tulsa’s rate to Broken Arrow’s jail operation costs are not relevant in this situation where we have removed duplicate operations,” Brejcha said. “The city’s use of the Tulsa County Jail is more efficient and better for all taxpayers, because the arrangement takes away the need for redundant jail operations.”

He also noted that the $59 daily housing rate the city would pay under the proposed deal is the same fee the U.S. Marshals Office pays for federal inmates.

“The rate is as high as any the jail receives for any prisoner,” Brejcha said.

Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313

kevin.canfield@tulsaworld.com

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