Budgetary Shortfall Being Discussed In Dodge County Joint Committee

(Juneau) The chairman of the Dodge County Board’s Finance Committee says all options are still being considered when it comes to housing federal inmates for money at the county jail. The county board voted last year to close the old jail, referred to as J-Pod, reducing a longtime revenue stream and leading to a $490-thousand-dollar budgetary shortfall for 2018.

Finance Committee Chair Dave Frohling says any future infrastructure investments for new beds would come after the results of an operational analysis of the sheriff’s office is completed. The county board last month hired the Matrix Consulting Group of California to look at the sheriff’s office’s budgeting and financial procedures, evaluate service contracts for food and medical, assess staffing levels and review the revenue generated from housing federal inmates.

Frohling says some decisions will need to be made on any one of several options. One option, he says, would be to build a new pod. A second option would be to renovate the newer portion of J-Pod; he says the oldest section would likely stay closed. Another option would be to leave the old jail closed and add no new beds.

“Nothing is cast in stone,” Frohling says, “we just need a lot more information before we make those decisions.”

The sheriff says the closure of the old jail led to a 38-percent reduction in the number of available beds last year; that resulted in a $2.68-million-dollar loss in contract bed revenue alone. Frohling says even with a $100-million-dollar county budget, that loss of revenue is noticed. He says it is a pretty big hit because it adds a considerable amount of tax levy to the operation of the sheriff’s budget. “Was some of it expected ‘yes,” Frohling says, “Could it have been softened if we had done it in a different manner ‘probably’ but the decision was made to close by year’s end.” He notes that while it impacted the 2018 budget, the lower number of contract beds was planned for in 2019.

There will be a joint meeting of the Finance and Judicial and Public Protection committee’s this Friday, February 8th to discuss how to address the shortfall.