With two paydays left this year, the Jefferson County Jail does not have enough money to meet payroll, Sheriff-elect Lafayette Woods Jr. said Monday.
Woods, who is currently operations commander for the Sheriff’s Office, told the Quorum Court that they were able to move money around to meet the Nov. 30 payroll, but as of 1 p.m. Monday, he received word from the County Clerk’s Office that they could not process the Dec. 15 payroll, which, he said, is about $61,000 gross.
“I thought we had a partial solution,” Wood said about $35,000 that remained in the County General account. However, $32,000 of that was already committed to other county needs.
“The employees at the jail work 12-hours shifts doing a job that other people don’t want to do,” Woods said. “I don’t know where we go from here but we need an immediate solution.”
Woods said that the Arkansas Department of Correction owes Jefferson County about $200,000 for holding state prisoners, but as of Monday, the county had not received the check in the mail.
Justice of the Peace Dr. Herman Ginger, chairman of the Finance Committee, said the situation was a “classic example of appropriations versus cash in the bank. The clerk can’t write the check because we don’t have cash in the bank (to cover the checks).”
Ginger said the problem is that when the 2018 budget was adopted, the Sheriff’s Office was projected to bring in a certain amount of revenue, and that projection formed the basis for their budget. This year, the revenue was down compared to projections.
“We’re already working short,” said Maj. Tyra Tyler, the jail administrator. “We’ve got a staff of five or six and 300 detainees. We’ve got slots we haven’t filled. We need to try and keep the employees we have instead of them going to Pulaski County or the Department of Corrections.”
Woods said part of the problem with the projections is that while the jail makes most of its revenue from housing prisoners, with the department unable to fill vacancies, some of the deputies who were assigned to serve arrest warrants have had to do other things, thereby reducing the number of prisoners brought in.
Also, the jail gets revenue from detainees who work on the Clean Team, but if the jail does not have enough jailers on duty, those deputies whose job it is to supervise the Clean Teams can’t take them out.
County Judge Booker Clemons and County Attorney Jackie Harris told Woods and Tyler they would work on the situation Monday, including contacting the state about the money owed.
On another subject Monday, the county’s legislative body approved an ordinance establishing a per-diem pay schedule while at the same time rejecting a clause in the proposed ordinance that would have paid mileage for attending meetings.
According to the ordinance, members of the Quorum Court will be paid $432.33 for every regular meeting attended and the same amount for committee meetings or any special meeting. Those figures are set by the state with a maximum of $10,376 annually for justices of the peace living in a county with a population of at least 70,000.
The mileage provision, which was struck, called for the JP’s to receive round-trip mileage at the Internal Revenue Service published rate for that year from their home or office to the Jefferson County Courthouse.
Justice of the Peace Brenda Bishop-Gaddy, who lives in Altheimer, was one of those who spoke against the mileage provision.
“I live farther away than any of you, and I have never claimed mileage and I never will,” she said.
Ginger and others also said they had not claimed mileage, since being a member of the Quorum Court is like going to a job. They said they were not paid to get to their jobs.