Escambia County

County Jail: Feeding the Beast

July 12, 2017

Escambia County’s property tax revenues have risen $17.96 million over the past four years – a 20.2-percent increase.

Why don’t you feel any benefit from that significant increase? You only have to examine the detention budget and see where $11.8 million has been swallowed up. While ad valorem tax revenue is up 20.2 percent, detention costs are up 41-percent from FY 2014.

 Ad Valorem Tax Revenue
Increase
FY 2014 Actual $88,794,048
FY 2015 Actual $91,231,917 $2,437,869 2.7%
FY 2016 Actual $93,171,277 $1,939,360 2.1%
FY 2017 Adopted $102,050,246 $8,878,969 9.5%
FY 2018 Estimate $106,756,191 $4,705,945 4.6%
$17,962,143 20.2%

Here is the comparison of the proposed FY 2014  jail budget for the county’s FY 2018 proposal:

FY 2014 FY 2018
Salaries
Detention  $26,401,457
Medical  $3,719,536
Subtotal  $24,569,038  $30,120,993  $5,551,955
Professional Services
Detention  $4,510
Medical  $2,183,239
Subtotal  $1,240,361  $2,187,749  $947,388
Other Contractual Services
Detention  $6,300,551
Medical  $72,636
Subtotal  $1,994,584  $6,373,187  $4,378,603
Communications
Detention  $14,699
Medical  $7,308
Subtotal  $-  $22,007  $22,007
Postage Freight
Detention  $1,579
Medical  $-
Subtotal  $-  $1,579  $1,579
Utility Services
Detention  $165
Medical  $-
Subtotal  $-  $165  $165
Rentals & Leases
Detention  $27,468
Medical  $-
Subtotal  $3,888  $27,468  $23,580
Insurance
Detention  $-
Medical  $-
Subtotal  $111,085  $-  $(111,085)
Repairs & Maintenance
Detention  $69,885
Medical  $17,500
Subtotal  $13,034  $87,385  $74,351
Other Charges
Detention  $-
Medical  $173
Subtotal  $-  $173  $173
Office Supplies
Detention  $67,500
Medical  $10,000
Subtotal  $-  $77,500  $77,500
Operating Supplies
Detention  $182,285
Medical  $1,712,109
Subtotal  $981,133  $1,894,394  $913,261
Subscriptions
Detention  $252  $252
Medical  $-
Subtotal  $-  $252
Total  $28,913,123  $40,792,852  $11,879,477

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  • CJ Lewis July 12, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    No matter who actually runs the Jail in the future – the County Administrator & staff, the Sheriff or a private entity – the funding process could be made more stable, more transparent and less overtly political. The county has the power to establish a Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU). For it to apply countywide, I believe that the board would have to get the approval of the Pensacola City Council and the Century Town Council. If state law allows the county to establish a MSTU to fund the Detention function, during the first year of its implementation, presumably the Fiscal Year 2019 budget cycle running from October 2018 to September 2019, a matching and corresponding reduction could be made in the county’s ad valorem property tax millage rate as an offset. Because that countywide property tax reduction would apply inside city and town limits, the governing bodies of those municipalities would likely support it. There would be nothing to prevent the board from increasing the countywide ad valorem property tax millage rate in a later budget year for any purpose but I believe that most citizens to include voters would see the change I propose as fair and better for the long-term financial stability of the jail. One possible benefit to establishing a Detention MSTU that all property owners would see on their tax bills is that it would better highlight the true cost of the detention function and perhaps lessen political resistance to creative initiatives designed to lower the cost of running the jail such as reducing the pre-trial population leveraging alliances with outside non-profit agencies.