On July 11, 2017 the Board of County Commissioners instructed Sheriff Nienhuis to transfer revenues from the Federal Inmate Housing program to the county, due to concern over state statutes mandating the monthly remittance of earned revenues. The Sheriff’s Office followed through with this request on July 14, 2017, transferring $2.2 million in Federal Inmate Housing program revenues to the county’s General Fund.
The Board of County Commissioners addressed several budgetary items related to the Sheriff’s Office transfer of contracted revenues on Tues. Aug. 22, 2017. First they approved 5 - 0 a budget resolution, recognizing the transfer of approximately $1.3 million into the general fund from the Sheriff’s Office contracted revenue (other than the Federal Inmate Housing Program). The $1.3 million offsets the Sheriff’s Office FY 2017 budget. The $1.3 million in contracted revenue is as follows:
• School Resource Officer: $585,040
• School Crossing Guards: $163,160
• Inmate Work Squad: $63,950
• Emergency Dispatch: $499,573
In another budget resolution the board approved the recognition of the $2.2 million in Federal Inmate Housing program revenue transferred from the Sheriff’s Office in July. The revenue will now reside in a fund called fund 1203 - HCSO Revenue Fund. The Sheriff’s Office will transfer the Federal Inmate Housing Program revenue to the Board on a monthly basis.
An item that was voted down with some verbal disagreement between board members was the 5 year plan for the Federal Inmate Program.
The county facilities department and detention staff worked together to develop the Federal Inmate Program five year capital plan. Nearly $4.3 million worth of improvements were identified, with additional costs pending due to incomplete estimates. One improvement is the renovation of the jail annex, enabling the Sheriff’s Office to grow the Federal Inmate program. This requires additional staff which would be included in the FY 2018 budget.
Commissioner Champion asked Budget Manager Pam Lee, “Are we in agreement with the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that was signed by Sheriff Nugent and the county? So is it 50% going to the county for jail operations and 50% going to capital?”
She replied that it is not, “It is all sitting in the special revenue fund,” she said.
The MOU referred to is the Interlocal Agreement between the Sheriff and the county transferring the responsibility of jail operations to the Sheriff. It was signed on June 2, 2010 by Sheriff Nugent and the BOCC. Prior to the agreement, a private company, CCA, maintained jail operations. It was widely agreed upon that the private company was not providing sufficient service and the Sheriff’s Office could do a better job. The jail was in poor condition and the county placed $3 million into a fund for repairing the jail.
The interlocal agreement allows the Sheriff to accept dollars from other government entities in exchange for service, such as housing their inmates. The agreement states, “The Sheriff shall be authorized to enter into agreements for housing of inmates with other governmental entities for the purpose of generating additional revenues.
Revenues from such contracts with third parties shall be allocated equally to the SHERIFF and the COUNTY for the operation of the jail in the manner provided for in Fla. Stat. Ch. 129.”
Champion stated, “It has to offset some taxpayer money for jail operations… Taxpayer money was used to get that revenue and half of that needs to be for jail operations. ”
Commissioner Nicholson agreed with Champion’s statement.
Commissioner Allocco questioned Champion’s reasoning since the improvements need to be made to the jail. He asked how they are not offsetting taxpayer money.
Champion explained that costs are being added to the FY 2018 Sheriff’s Office budget. He asked Pam Lee which expenses are “new.”
She replied that the personnel costs are new.
County Administrator Len Sossamon explained that the five year plan to renovate the jail would be an expenditure of just over $5 million which would be completed in phases.
He said that in order to renovate the two primary units A and B, two inmate “pods” would be taken out at a time and moved to the annex (which would house 100 prisoners) and a building behind the annex (which can house up to 75). Extra personnel would be needed for “duplicity,” since they will need staff to supervise inmates in the annex and the other location.
He also stated that there is a need for a transport vehicle which is required under the agreement between the Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Inmate US Marshals.
Champion questioned whether or not these expenses were included in the FY 2018 Sheriff’s Office budget “prior to us finding this money.”
Pam Lee responded, “None on the proposed budget.”
“It took tax dollars to fund that jail,” said Champion, “to employ everyone there and the taxpayers deserve some kind of relief. It’s our job as constitutionals to earn revenue to offset the taxpayer.”
“We are offsetting it with the cost of renovating the jail that needs to be renovated,” said Allocco.
Champion discussed taking a loan to fix the jail during a previous meeting, but Allocco is in favor of using the money they have at their disposal to avoid debt.
Mr. Sossamon explained that he along with staff looked at using special revenue bonds through the Federal Inmate program, but he felt it wasn’t a good option since if the program ended in the middle of construction the county would still need to pay to finish renovations. The bond is structured in such a way to fall back on millage if the federal inmate programs ends.
Commissioner Holcomb made a motion to approve seconded by Allocco. The motion failed with Commissioners Nicholson, Champion and Chairman Dukes opposing.
It should be noted that there were some bitter remarks between opposing sides prior to the vote.
Sossamon requested for direction on the 5 year plan so they can bring a balanced budget back for the first budget hearing.
Champion reiterated that he would like to see half of the revenues going to jail operations per the MOU. Allocco then added, “with an exhausted MOU.” Holcomb also emphasized that the MOU is “expired.”
It was stated that Dukes will be absent for the first budget hearing.
For the final budgetary item, the Sheriff submitted a revised FY 2018 proposed budget, accounting for the change necessitating all Sheriff’s Office contracted revenue be transferred to the General Fund. The Board approved the proposed budget unanimously.
In clarification on how to move forward with the five year plan, Sossamon asked the Chairman,
“Should we protract the five year plan because we are going to have reduced amount of revenue?”
Pam Lee explained that half of the $2.2 million just approved will go into the general fund via a transfer, which will be included in the 2018 budget (for jail operations).
The other half will stay in the special revenue fund to be appropriated.
Nicholson said that improvements can begin since there is $700,000 in the capital improvement fund this year that was never spent. So the $700,000 and approximately $1.1 million in the special revenue fund can be used for repairs in 2018.
Pam Lee stated, “That is correct. If you remember, several years ago we appropriated $3 million and there is still a little over $700,000 left for the jail improvements... ”
Sheriff Nienhuis would have to come before the Board to ask for a budget resolution to use the $1.8 million (for the capital improvements).
He would need to adjust his budget in the following year to ask for the additional funds to complete the renovations.
“If it’s necessary and we need to do it, then we approve it,” said Commissioner Champion.