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The Belgrade News

County Jail lays Golden Egg

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Posted: Friday, July 19, 2013 6:01 am

Gallatin County officials announced Tuesday its detention center brought in $1.1 million in fees last fiscal year from contracting beds with outside agencies.

The county contracts with Madison, Park, Sweetgrass, Lewis and Clark and Yellowstone counties for bed space. The state Department of Corrections and the U.S. Marshall’s Office also rents beds at the detention center.

During the final push to pass a bond in 2008 to build the 86,000-square foot facility, county officials decided to set aside money from potential contracts to go toward future expansions, according to county records.

Each year the County Commission sets the bed rate by resolution, county finance director Ed Blackman said. Once a total of $260,000 is reached in revenue from contracts, the county socks away $45 per bed to be placed in the expansion fund.

Of the $1.1 million generated, $400,000 will be placed in the expansion fund, according to county records.

The remaining money, according to a release, will be funneled into the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office for equipment, vehicles and part-time help.

But Blackman said before any money is allocated, it needs to first pass muster.

“As far as the sheriff’s budget, it will depend on what he wants to allocate it for,” he said. “If it’s for the detention center, I think it’s going to be easy to justify. For other parts of his budget, he’s going to have to be able to justify it. It’s not just a boondoggle for him. The commission has to approve it and we have to show that we have received the money.”

The contracted fees are a one-time cash infusion to county coffers, Blackman said. Next year could be better or could be worse. The key for the county is not to rely on contracted bed fees as an integral piece to the overall budget.

Other counties and organizations have done just that and if the revenue stream dries up, a large budgetary sinkhole opens creating financial havoc, Blackman said.

Even so, the money generated above the $260,000 cap will help the taxpayers in the long run.

“It’s going to help the county’s budget as far as not having to ask the taxpayers for as much money to expand,” he said.

The jail is built on a pod-system and can accommodate two additional pods, according to county records. The detention center intially had 160 beds, but the county can expand that number by installing bunkbeds in the cells.

This spring, the county built 10 additional beds and completed another 10 beds last month, according to county records.

© 2015 The Belgrade News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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