Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Commissioners approve budget amendment
Emergency funding amendments dead ahead
Waco – McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch made a rare appearance today in Commissioners Court to explain how the projected budget for outside care of prisoners by CEC, Inc., will reach a $1.8 million shortfall at the end of fiscal year 2011-2012.
Prosecutors are seeking adjudication of indicted offenders at a much higher rate than was expected when the yearly budget was prepared. The resulting overflow of unexpected prisoners are held in the Jack Harwell Detention Center, which is operated by CEC, Inc., a for-profit New Jersey corporation.
At the rate of $275,000 per month, according to Budget Director Adam Harry, the budgeted funding will be depleted at the end of the coming three month period.
One alternative to cutting operating budgets for other departments will be to make emergency budget amendments to raise the necessary cash to make up the shortfall, said County Auditor Stan Chambers.
According to District Attorney Abel Reyna, the current spike in jail population is due to his office's aggressive indictment of accused criminals over the past year. He and the two criminal District Courts have been holding two Grand Jury sessions each month, each of which are returning a maximum of 120 to 150 indictments each month.
Mr. Reyna told the Court that he had taken the necessary steps to do this because during his career as a private attorney serving in the criminal defense bar, he had clients who were indicted, posted bond, and went on to re-offend as many as 9 times while prosecution against them languished under the administration of John Segrest, his predecessor, whom he defeated in 2010.
“We are asking that these people not be let out on bond,” he said. “In fact, we found a 1998 murder case that was in the back of a filing cabinet in a closet...”
In taking full responsibility for the need for prisoner care provided by an outside corporation, he assured the Court that if necessary, he will approve every personal recognizance bond, agree to any reduction in sentence or charges and any amount of bail. “You won't have anybody in your jail,” he said.
The members of the Court laughed and assured him that will not be necessary.
After lengthy discussion, the Court voted unanimously to amend the budget to take $285,020 from a contingency fund held in reserve for emergencies and an additional $100,000 from the deputy pay budget.
The budget amendment will bring the County up to date on invoices payable as of March 1.
Further signs of belt tightening
Commissioner Lester Gibson and Ben Perry agreed to defer a new system of having department heads and a minimum of two County Commissioners sign off on claims for vacation leave pay during each pay period.
The system will assure the Court that the benefits are actually due employees, a caution, said Mr. Gibson, because vacation claims average between $2,000 and $9,000 each time an employee leaves and the payroll department of the Treasurer's Office is not always sure they are due the benefits.
When an audit shows they are not, it requires litigation through the courts to get a judgment to collect the money.
Posted by The Legendary at 1:41 PM