County costs

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Governments at every level are working hard to stretch revenue to cover the many programs and services they provide. Some states -- California and Illinois come to mind -- face shortfalls in the billions of dollars. In Missouri, the recently ended legislative session addressed most of the cuts needed to keep the budget balanced, but the spending plan sent to Gov. Jay Nixon will require further slicing of hundreds of millions of dollars.

One way the legislature helped hold the line on expenses was to reduce reimbursements to counties for housing state prisoners and for assessing property. State budget officials say these cuts will reduce spending by $5 million and $5.5 million respectively.

The state has been reimbursing sheriff's departments $22 a day for prisoners. The new rate will be about $19.50 a day. Cape Girardeau County officials say the cost of housing a state prisoner is $37.50 a day. The difference must be borne by the county.

Some counties are looking for alternatives. One option being considered in Scott County is letting some prisoners opt for house arrest with electronic monitoring -- for a fee of $10 a day.

Ideas like this will be necessary as counties look for ways to cope with less state funding.

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