LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - With the opening of Lubbock County's new jail delayed, NewsChannel 11 asks what that means for tax payers. If the original deadline had kept, the county would have moved inmates into the new jail this week.
As we told you earlier this week, construction is delayed. County Commissioner Patti Jones tells us work could be finished by early to mid-June with inmates taking up residence sometime in August. That puts the move-in date around four months late. So, we wanted to know what effect that would have on local taxpayers.
Commissioner Jones says they're not looking to raise the tax rate, but she says a cut could take longer. "We have moved past what was substantial completion date, so there are damages being paid back to Lubbock County by the contractor," Lubbock County Commissioner Patti Jones said. She tells us that cost is around $4,000 a day.
Jones says the county has already collected around $720,000 and says they can use that money to help off-set the cost of housing inmates out of county this fiscal year. "Our audit in February showed we spent a little over $3-million in 2008 to house inmates out of county," Jones said.
Jones says the hold up at the new facility is security. Crews have to test all the equipment to make sure everything is running correctly before they can move inmates out of the old jail. "We're going to take enough time to inspect every system, re-test every system, ensure we don't have any areas of malfunction or things that aren't working like they're supposed to," Lubbock County Sheriff Chief Deputy of Detention Branch Kelly Rowe said.
The county hopes to have inmates in the new detention center by August, but that's not a definite, so staffing and some other issues are on hold. "We do have the contractors trying to analyze new information that they have based on additional man power they've put out there, and they're telling me they should have a date pretty quick," Rowe said.
So, what does that mean for tax payers? "We have raised the tax rate to help fund those positions," Jones said. She says if the money budgeted for new positions is not used in this fiscal year, that money will be rolled into the general fund. Jones says they won't spend it on anything else. "No, no, not at all. Even though they may not get utilized this year, we'll turn around and re-allocate them again in the next fiscal year," Jones said.
The current fiscal year ends September 30th. So, is there any chance this delay will cost tax payers? Jones says no. In fact, she say's eventually, they hope to lower the tax rate.
"We are not looking at having to go back to the tax payers to ask for an additional tax increase, and again, our goal is at some point in time to be able to lower that rate. We had hoped it would be this upcoming budget, but that was when we thought we were going to have an April 1st move in date, and because this has moved down and we're getting very, very close to being out of this current budget and into the next one, it may be another budget cycle off until we get to the point where we can do that," Jones said.
Jones says along with saving millions by housing all inmates in the county, the new detention center will make money by housing around 200-federal inmates at an estimated cost of $40 to $60 a day, each. Again, keeping that money in Lubbock County.
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