Douglas County Board Looks To Reduce Budget Costs At Jail
When it was built, the Douglas County Jail facility was designed to be pay for itself - at least when it came to the daily cost per inmate. However, in the roughly twenty years since it opened, that has never materialized, with taxpayers left footing the remaining expenses.
Douglas County officials want to change that approach. That's why they've started the process of budget review to right side the expense and revenue sides of the budget.
By design, the costs of housing county inmates would have been offset by the county housing prisoners for lawn enforcement agencies from other communities . According to details shared in an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], it costs Douglas County $108 a day to house an inmate. But that's not what other, outside agencies are paying to house inmates.
On average, Douglas County charges about $50 per day - depending on the community and the contract. That collected revenue fee goes as low as $35 for some law enforcement agencies. As an example, St. Louis County has only paid Douglas County "$46 per inmate for at least the last five years".
The difference between that $50 or $35 is the deficit that the jail facility operates at.
Right now - with things remaining the way they are, that deficit at the jail will cost Douglas County taxpayers $4.4 million inside of the 2023 budget.
That's why county officials are starting to search for solutions. Central to the issue is determining what the actual costs are and then finding ways to pass that along to the outside law enforcement agencies that are using the county's jail facility.
Another answer could be to build a smaller jail. The current facility - built about twenty years ago - is rated at 235-bed facility. However, on an average day "the jail houses about 130 inmates". Even when the facility isn't at capacity, they have to staff a certain amount of jailers - no matter whether they're needed or not. With a smaller facility, those manpower costs could be reduced.
There is one problem though with building a new jail to solve the budget underrun; "a new jail....ranges from $40 million to $70 million" to build. Compare that to the current facility that was finally paid off this past year. That current facility only cost county taxpayers $25 million to build.