State to spend less than Holden requested for Charleston prison

Thursday, April 15, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Because one-time expenses related to last year's opening of the final wing of the Southeast Correctional Center are in the past, the state looks to spend about $700,000 less on the Charleston prison this year.

The House of Representatives last week approved a nearly $11.2 million budget for the prison for the fiscal year beginning July 1, down from the roughly $11.9 million appropriated for the current fiscal year. In reviewing the House plan this week, the Senate Appropriations Committee made no substantive changes.

Department of Corrections spokesman Tim Kniest said the prison's budget is higher this year because of equipment purchases and other costs involved with bringing the facility fully online and upgrading it to maximum security status.

State Rep. Kevin Engler, who sits on the subcommittee that oversees the department's budget, said the funding approved by the House should be sufficient to cover ongoing expenses.

"There was no reduction in operational costs," said Engler, R-Farmington.

Gov. Bob Holden had requested $182,000 more for Charleston than provided by the House.

The prison first opened in October 2001, but a lack of funding prevented the facility from becoming fully operational until the recent opening of a 288-bed unit.

As of Feb. 11, the prison housed 1,524 inmates and was at nearly 96 percent of its designed capacity.

The House plan would eliminate the budget authorization for two full-time employees at Charleston, but Kniest said those jobs have never been filled and none of the facility's current 444 workers would lose their jobs.

The corrections department would have a $568 million overall budget under the House proposal -- a cut of $6.5 million from its current appropriation and $17.6 million less than the governor recommended.

The various bills that make up the $18.64 billion state operating budget that cleared the House still face action by the full Senate.

The corrections department budget is HB 1009.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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