More manpower will be heading to the Houston County Jail after county officials made some late adjustments to the 2020 fiscal year budget.
In an early September budget meeting, county officials originally designed a budget that did not fund a request to add eight new corrections officers to the jail staff. That caused Sheriff Donald Valenza and Houston County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Bill Rafferty to outline reasons they need the help, including an increase in the jail population and a gain in the number of inmates with mental health conditions.
During the Sept. 4 meeting, Rafferty said with a full staff – no vacations or illnesses – the jail employs 12 people to oversee the county’s roughly 400 inmates on a given shift. He added that ratio is significantly higher than the U.S. Department of Justice’s recommendation of one corrections officer for every 10.25 inmates.
Additionally the jail has averaged a population that is slightly over the designated capacity of 398.
The discussion prompted some commissioners to request a reassessment of the budget in an effort to provide more manpower to the sheriff’s office. It resulted in the inclusion of two more corrections officers in the budget, commission chairman Mark Culver said Thursday.
“If we were going to add deputies, we thought that would be the area with the most need,” he said.
Overall the budget details $48.3 million in expenditures and $46.5 million in revenues. With those projections, the county would be left with about $4.9 million in reserves, but often officials budget conservatively and numbers turn out better.
The budget does not include funding for Chattahoochee Park operations. The park has been closed since it was decimated by Hurricane Michael almost a year ago.
Culver said the state denied a request to help repair the park, but the county continues to pursue revenue sources that could help repair the facilities. For now, though, officials have scheduled no funding to, or revenue from, the park.
While officials have implemented another budget, they continue to face funding challenges, Culver said.
“It’s a good budget but not what we need,” he said. “We still are not able to do the things we need to do. Our department heads don’t come to us with a Christmas list. They come to us with things they need, and we’re just not able to fund all of them.”
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