Tulsa County looking for ways to put the operation of county jail back in the black

Friday, December 3rd 2004, 10:29 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa County officials are in a budget battle over whether the jail should be subsidized with property taxes or forced to survive on sales tax alone.

The jail has a dedicated sales tax, but it's not enough to keep up with the costs. News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says the Tulsa County jail is costing more than county leaders ever imagined. Halfway through a 10 year contract with CCA, the jail authority is millions of dollars in the red.

County Commissioner Randi Miller chairs the jail authority and she says the only solution may be an infusion of money from the general fund, which means property taxes. "I don't know of any other options right now, we're going to do what we can to protect the general fund, but the safety of the constituents is very important."

The jail takes in money from a quarter cent county sales tax, plus state and federal payments for keeping their prisoners. CCA charges the county $48 a day for each inmate. The federal government pays the county more than cost to house their inmates, but the state pays only half what it costs. The city pays the county nothing.

The jail authority hasn't really asked for a subsidy from other county departments yet. Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel: “Do you see us able to come up with some assistance for the jail authority, to the tune of multiple millions of dollars here?” Friday, the county budget board voted to tell them no in case they do ask.

The jail has run a deficit the last 4 of 5 years, and now has a running shortfall of $3.7-million. The options include cutting expenses, collecting more from the state or subsidizing the jail from other county funds.

With the jail so far in the red, the other county departments don't want to volunteer part of their budgets to help something that was supposed to make it on sales tax alone.