County board says it won't approve 'frivolous' expenses

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

JACKSON, Mo. -- Cape Girardeau County commissioners say they won't approve "frivolous" spending even if more money must be budgeted for juvenile operations in the wake of a state ruling.

Commissioners said Monday they're still undecided about whether to hire a juvenile detention consultant in the face of a state ruling last week that no need exists for a new detention center in Cape Girardeau.

The Missouri Judicial Finance Commission said in its ruling Friday that Perry, Bollinger and Cape Girardeau counties must provide $470,726 for juvenile operations in the three-county 32nd Judicial Circuit or more than double the $157,100 that had been allocated for juvenile operations.

The counties have been earmarking $365,000 a year for juvenile operations while approving expenditures of only about $150,000 a year.

Commissioners said that while more money will have to be budgeted to meet the ruling, it doesn't mean the added money will be spent.

Gerald Jones, presiding commissioner, said, "We would not anticipate any kind of frivolous spending."

The finance commission said no need exists for a new detention center and any money left over in the juvenile operation budget would have to be returned each year to general revenue and could not be rolled over for juvenile department use the following year as the circuit judges had wanted.

Jones said the counties won the budget battle with juvenile officials and circuit judges except on the issue of how much money has to be budgeted for juvenile operations.

'Won and lost'

"We won and we lost," said Jones at Monday's commission meeting. "It was better than a tie."

As a result of the ruling, Cape Girardeau County will budget $324,801 a year for juvenile operations. Perry County will have to contribute $89,438 and Bollinger County will pay $56,487.

Cape Girardeau County funds 69 percent of the juvenile operations. Perry County provides 19 percent and Bollinger County pays the other 12 percent. Under state law, the percentages are determined on the basis of county population. The bigger the population, the larger the county's share of the costs.

Cape Girardeau County will have to earmark another $72,000 toward juvenile operations to meet the ruling, Jones said. Perry and Bollinger counties combined will have to provide another $32,561 for juvenile operations.

County commissioners have balked at the idea of spending $4.3 million for a 38-bed detention center to replace the aging, 10-bed unit.

But Circuit Judge John Grimm has said that the judges and juvenile officers aren't married to a facility of that size and cost.

Jones said it might still be wise to hire a consultant to develop a master plan and assess detention needs even if there are no immediate plans to build a new center.

The county commission agreed in May to hire Huskey & Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in juvenile detention planning. But commissioners never signed the contract and said on Monday that it remains on hold.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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