AUBURN, Maine — Unless the Androscoggin County Jail gets most of its promised $184,000 in state money to help cover costs for April, May and June, layoffs must happen, Sheriff Guy Desjardins warned county commissioners Wednesday.
And loss of the full payment would be catastrophic, he said.
In all, 41 people from a jail staff of 56 would have to lose their jobs to make up the full state payment in the fiscal year’s remaining 10 weeks.
“I don’t believe that’s an option,” Desjardins said. “It’s not a viable option.”
Rather, he plans to fight.
“I need every penny they can give me,” he said.
The problem is a shortfall in state funding to the county corrections system. Currently, the state is projecting a shortfall of about $800,000 to Maine’s 15 county jails.
The state’s Board of Corrections approved funding third-quarter payments last month.
However, Chairman Mark Westrum warned counties that a fourth-quarter payment might never come due to the budget squeeze. He also told counties to plan on no increases over the next two-year state budget cycle.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 23, in Augusta.
“The system is failing unless more money is put into it,” Desjardins said.
Currently, the Androscoggin County Jail is averaging between 130 and 160 inmates. An average of 120 more are bailed and serving contracts with Maine Pretrial Services.
The 2014 and 2015 jail budgets Desjardins submitted Wednesday to commissioners proposed modest increases, disregarding the Board of Corrections’ instructions.
The current $5.5 million budget would increase by about $248,000 in the first year and another $72,000 in the second. New increases are due to workers’ compensation and health insurance costs being out of their control, Desjardins said.
This is the budget that I need to meet my mission,” the sheriff said. “I can’t do it for any less.”
Commissioners unanimously approved the budgets.
The state’s call for new efficiencies is too late, Chairman Randall Greenwood said.
“We did the efficiencies before they asked, and now we’re being punished because we did them,” he said. Changes such as new lighting and a converted heating system have already been done.
“We’re at a point where the state needs to pony up,” Greenwood said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services