Last updated: January 16. 2014 4:15PM - 1528 Views
By - cberendt@civitasmedia.com

Chris Berendt/Sampson IndependentSheriff Jimmy Thornton speaks during a recent meeting. Detention Center revenues, projections for which were boosted in an effort to balance the 2013-14, are expected to be exceeded again.
Chris Berendt/Sampson IndependentSheriff Jimmy Thornton speaks during a recent meeting. Detention Center revenues, projections for which were boosted in an effort to balance the 2013-14, are expected to be exceeded again.
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Sampson County has already collected in jail fees what it budgeted for nearly all of 2012-13. That was the plan, and it is working well, the county’s finance officer said.

Leading up to the adoption of the current 2013-14 budget, the Sampson Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to include $150,000 in boosted revenue projections for the Detention Center, notably in the area of housing out-of-county inmates. Approached by county officials in an effort to balance the budget, sheriff’s officials said they felt they could comfortably add $200,000 to the 2013-14 budgeted amount for jail fees — the board scaled down that figure somewhat for wiggle room.

The Detention Center revenues have historically exceeded budget projections by a long shot.

For 2012-13, the jail finished around $800,000 above the roughly $590,000 in jail fees projected to be collected. At the six-month mark of last year, jail fees were already in excess of the projected amount by $20,000, at $604,106 compared to the budgeted amount of $584,100.

Finance officer David Clack said the county is seeing similar numbers this year. While the total revenues are down — from $604,106 collected in 2012-13 through the halfway point to $516,193 collected this year — jail fee revenue projections are in line to be met, and again exceeded.

Through six months this year, as of Dec. 31, 2013, $516,193 of a budgeted $908,100 in jail fees had been received, or nearly 57 percent, putting the county more than halfway to its budgeted total, Clack noted.

“Last year at this time, because of the very small budget in housing out-of-county prisoners, we were at 103 percent of budget,” the finance officer pointed out. “This year, with our $908,000 budget, we’re at almost 57 percent, which gives us every indication that throughout the year we will exceed that budget.”

Just $68,000 in revenue was projected to be collected for housing out-of-county inmates in 2012-13 — the county collected over $700,000, leading commissioners to request a boosted revenue projection.

“We don’t believe trying to come up with $900,000 (in jail fees) … is going to be an issue,” Chief Deputy John Conerly said last year.

With good reason.

In 2007-08, the jail generated revenues of approximately $1.4 million. In 2008-09, the figure was $1.87 million, before dipping to approximately $1.5 million in 2009-10 and then to about $1.18 million in 2010-11. Since then, the revenues have been on the rise, to $1.24 million in 2011-12, and in excess of $1.3 million in 2012-13, according to figures.

As part of the overall jail fees, the Sheriff’s Office had initially projected $360,000 in revenues for housing out-of-county prisoners and $300,000 for state prisoners in 2013-14, for a total of $660,000 (the county receives $50 per day for each out-of-county prisoner and $40 for each prisoner held as part of the Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Program).

However, sheriff’s officials said they did not anticipate Wayne, Duplin and Lenoir counties running into the difficulties they have had with jail space, and expected Wayne and Duplin to continue to be in the same predicament, with those inmates coming to Sampson.

Sheriff’s officials have noted the constant monitoring process when pulling together projections and considering the landscape in terms of anticipated revenues for the coming year.

When making the 2012-13 projections, Onslow County was opening a jail and no other counties were pushing Sampson to keep its inmates, leading to the lower projection. However, other counties soon found themselves in trouble and Sampson was housing their inmates, translating into more dollars and a far-exceeded projection.

“We have exceeded what we thought we would bring in every year, and by a substantial amount,” Conerly said at the time. “We did do a lot of crunching of numbers. The people who are using us right now, who we are getting most of this from, are not even in the process of looking at a jail yet. This year’s no problem, but we have to look at it every year.”

As with 2012-13, the Detention Center far exceeded its revenue projections for 2011-12, bringing in $1,240,964, well over the projected $455,602. Sheriff Jimmy Thornton noted an approximately $400,000 in records management system and software paid for by those excess revenues.

“We still had a surplus of $385,362,” the sheriff said. “And we’ve exceeded it every year.”

Clack confirmed that the jail revenues were again on pace to easily be met.

While state’s misdemeanant collections are down, Clack said that is mainly due to a few outstanding checks that have not been received as of yet.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at cberendt@civitasmedia.com.

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