County board approves jail deficit coverage

February 21, 2019

JUNEAU — Now that the Dodge County Board has approved funds to cover a shortfall created by closing the Pod J jail facility, life can go on for the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office.

A 23 to 6 vote approved using carry-over funds from the 2018 General Fund to cover the nearly $500,000 deficit. The vote was taken Tuesday at the monthly board meeting in the Dodge County Administration Building.

Four board members were absent.

The shortfall came about after the closure of Pod J, a low-risk detention center that both the county board and the sheriff’s office agreed needed to be closed. The old facility needs major repairs and no longer fills its purpose. The beds in that facility were moved into the newer county jail facility, filling spots formerly leased to house federal prisoners. Since that revenue stream diminished in the lead-up to the facility’s closing on Dec. 17, a substantial revenue shortfall resulted.

Sheriff Dale Schmidt informed board members of the projected shortfall at the time, because the decision to close Pod J had not been included in the 2018 budget.

Both Judicial & Public Protection and Finance Committee members recommended paying the bill, with only David Guckenberger casting a nay vote. Guckenberger read a statement regarding his strong displeasure Tuesday night, repeating his desire for answers as to why the shortfall happened and how to prevent it from ever happening again.

At the earlier meeting Dodge County Finance Director Julie Kolp gave an update on the jail shortfall, standing at $409,658 for lost jail revenue and $71,955 in additional Spillman technology upgrade and update costs. The total of $496,597 may change slightly up until the final budget close-out is approved.

At that time, Kolp also reported an estimate of $2.6 million in carry-over funds from 2018, potentially covering the sheriff’s department shortfall and a nearly $2 million allocation of funds to reduce the 2019 tax levy for a balanced budget.

On Tuesday, the board also approved using sales tax revenue to cover HVAC upgrades at the Sheriff’s Office. The cost may not exceed $170,000.

Guckenberger cast the sole nay vote for that expenditure as well.