Tulsa County Diverts Funds To Finish Over-Budget Jail Expansion

Monday, May 16th 2016, 6:18 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Tulsa County takes more action to help fund jail operations. They’re pulling money from other areas to fund a jail expansion project that is over budget.

The jail keeps running only because Tulsa County is pulling money from other departments. It’s supposed to run on sales tax, but that's not enough to keep up with spending, so the jail has been behind on paying bills.

Monday, the goal was to catch up on medical expenses for inmates.

The Tulsa County Budget Board spent another day cutting money here and there and moving it to the jail; $400,000, from parks, legal and IT in a single meeting.

While the board agrees jail spending is out of line, several members continue to blame the City of Tulsa for not paying a fair share of the costs.

"The residents of Broken Arrow, Bixby, Owasso Jenks, Glenpool, the surrounding suburbs are subsidizing jail costs for the City of Tulsa. Now Mayor Bartlett may not feel that is the case, but it is in fact, the case," said Tulsa County Treasurer, Dennis Semler.

In the meantime, Sheriff Vic Regalado said he hopes to generate more income with a new contract to hold inmates with immigration issues and by taking over the jail commissary.

He's cutting costs too - buying less expensive cars for deputies and allowing fewer employees to take cars home.

By switching out deputies for detention officers at the jail, Regalado said the office saves about $10,000 per person.

"I knew coming in there was a lot of issues in terms of mismanagement of the money and we're going to fix it.  It's going to take some time,” Regalado said.

The jail expansion is over budget, but Regalado said his office will use $1.2 million in cash reserves to pay some of the construction costs.

The overrun is blamed on an unrealistically low estimate for the project before it went out for bids.

Voters approved the tax for the jail expansion.