Expecting to spend more to house inmates, Kanawha County is putting an additional half-million dollars toward its jail bill for the next budget year.
The Kanawha County Commission on Thursday approved a $58 million budget for Fiscal Year 2023-24, which starts in July.
Currently the state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation has capped the per-diem rate counties pay for inmates at $48.25 per inmate per day.
According to a bill passed during the 2022 legislative session, the cap is set to expire in July, forcing counties to pay the full cost of housing the inmates. That equates to approximately $54 per inmate, per day.
The Kanawha County Commission has budgeted $4.3 million to cover its jail bill, an increase of $525,000 over last year’s budget, Kim Fleck, the commission’s finance director, said.
Fleck said the county has already seen an increase in jail costs because of the number of inmates it’s housing now.
“So, we have increased days happening now, plus the rate’s going to go up on us in July,” Fleck said. “So that will be a significant increase if the trend continues with how the days are increasing already.”
Fleck said the county will cover the increased jail bill costs with an increase in revenue from rising property tax values.
In addition to the increased jail bill, the county’s budget also includes a 9.7% increase in PEIA premiums. The county splits the cost of the premium with its employees. The county’s 80% share will mean an increase of around $300,000.
During the meeting, Commission President Kent Carper said the increases to jail costs and health care were the reason the county’s budget increased by $1.9 million over last year.
“If someone wants to know why our budget went up — the jail bill, PEIA,” Carper said. “And it’s been every time you turn around we get cuts or mandates from the statehouse.”
Carper said state lawmakers have suggested that county commissioners better “manage” their jail bills, a concept Carper said he disagrees with.
“Manage the jail bill means encourage the prosecutor and law enforcement not to incarcerate people,” Carper said. “First of all, how do you do that? And I have no interest in that. Now, I’m not a bit interested in anybody going to jail because we’re mad at them, but we ought to put people in jail when we know we should be afraid of them. And that’s law enforcement’s job and the prosecutor and the court’s job.”
Fleck said the budget does not include pay raises or cost of living increases for employees.
“Of course, we can do budget revisions and add those if projections come to the better than what we’ve budgeted for,” she said.
Also Thursday, the commission approved a separate $1.75 million budget for its coal severance fund, which is tax revenue the state distributes to counties based on coal production and sales. The coal severance fund has increased by $300,000 over last year, Fleck said.
“We’ve seen an increase in the amount we’ve received from the state for our distribution,” Fleck said. “So we’re hoping that continues, that would be an adequate increase for next year.”
The county tries to spend the money in coal-producing parts of the county, she said. Of the money, $290,000 goes toward supporting 15 fire departments in coal severance areas. Nearly $400,000 goes toward paying sheriff’s deputies in those areas, she said.
Also Thursday, commissioners approved distributing $25,000 grants to each of the following businesses as part of its ALL KAN small business grant program: 1st Place Café in Nitro, Andrew’s Floor and Wall Covering in Charleston, Coal River Coffee in St. Albans, Cyclops Industries in South Charleston, JQ Dickinson Salt Works in Malden, and Providence Insurance Agency in South Charleston.
Commissioners approved distributing American Rescue Plan funds in the following amounts for the following projects:
- $98,000 to Camp Virgil Tate for a water line replacement and stormwater mitigation
- $199,104 more to the Kanawha County Regional Development Authority for a project that will provide water for 36 households in the Crestwood Area. The commission previously committed $678,000 for the same project, but estimates increased. Carper asked that the development authority ask West Virginia American Water to contribute to the increase in cost before the county awards the money.
- $480,000 to the Kanawha Public Service District for a project to provide sanitary sewer services to 281 residents of Hernshaw/Lens Creek.