Sullivan County officials start work on budget

J. H. Osborne • Apr 3, 2007 at 12:57 PM

Sheriff's office is seeking more than $2.2 million in new money for fiscal year 2008.

BLOUNTVILLE - Jail Two. Jail, too. Jail $2.2 - million.

It doesn't have an official name. Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson says it's just part of the county's jail. But it has a staff. And they'll have to be paid.

And it's going to have up to 240 mouths to feed. And then there's heat and water.

Operation and staffing of what will be Sullivan County's second functioning jail, scheduled to officially open May 1, will likely capture the attention of county officials as the county's budget process unfolds this year.

The first of several budget hearings was held Monday night.

It focused on requests for county dollars from more than three dozen nonprofit organizations. A few asked for more than they got this fiscal year, primarily 3 percent or 5 percent increases to meet inflation in operating costs just to continue the same level of service to county residents in the year ahead.

A few asked for one-time appropriations for capital improvements. The Bristol area chapter of the American Red Cross requested a $10,000 contribution to its building fund, the Piney Flats Volunteer Fire Department asked for $25,000 to update equipment, and the Hickory Tree Rescue Squad is seeking $40,000 to do the same.

The Sullivan County Commission's Administrative Committee, which conducted the hearing, wasn't expected to vote on any of the individual requests until a later date.

It will also schedule another meeting to hear budget requests from the county departments it has oversight of, including the sheriff's department.

Copies of those requests were distributed Monday to county commissioners on the committee.

The sheriff's office is seeking more than $2.2 million in new money for fiscal year 2008, which begins July 1 - including more than $1.8 million under the jail account and almost $450,000 under the sheriff's department account.

Payroll - wages and benefits - makes up the majority of the requested funding increase.

It won't come as a surprise to county commissioners. The new facility was OK'd by the commission two years ago this month, and construction began almost a year ago.

Early on, estimates began to roll in on how much it would cost to staff and operate the new jail.

Anderson first approached the commission with a formal request for the money during last year's budget process. He asked for about $900,000 to hire 25 employees to staff the facility.

The money wasn't included in this year's budget, but commissioners pointed out even more would be needed for operations.

Late last year, the commission voted to use part of the county's surplus fund to pay for operation of the new jail from May 1 through June 30, to finish out this fiscal year. They also approved enough new funding for Anderson to hire the 25 new employees a few weeks earlier than the opening date.

The new jail is built to hold 240 inmates, all male, with minimum- and medium-security status. It will operate in addition to the current county jail.

In his fiscal year 2008 budget request, Anderson is seeking $888,000 in new money for jail personnel and another $498,000 for their benefits, citing the opening of the new facility. He's also seeking another $308,000 in new money for increased supplies and materials, citing the new facility and inflation, and $61,000 for new contracted services due to the new facility.

Sullivan's current property tax rate is $2.53 per $100 of assessed value. Each penny of the tax rate generates about $276,000 in revenue for the county.

The current, main county jail is designed to house 383 inmates. But it has often housed hundreds more - as many as 677 as recently as December 2005.

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