Where’d the money go?
On November 6th, you’ll have to decide on supporting or not supporting the Jail tax. Currently, there are two taxes that support the jail: the courthouse and jail tax and the adult correctional facility tax. To be clear, the “jail” and the “adult correctional facility” are the same thing.
According to Bruce Conque, the city council originally brought this tax because “The fund balance from a parish wide courthouse complex tax has been subsidizing the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center for years, at times by more than $2 million, instead of being used for the courthouse. In a few years, the balance will be gone, leaving a gap in jail funding for operations and maintenance.” For this post, we won’t get into the $2.5 million annual budget surplus last year, or the $7.8 million (and growing) account balance for the courthouse and jail. If you’d like, you’re welcome to catch up in this post on the courthouse surplus.
So the first question I have: How much does it cost to run the jail, and is that $2 million “subsidy” an anomaly or will it continue to happen? I created a graph showing the parish jail’s expenses from 2003 to 2017. As you can see (below) Bruce Conque was talking about 2016, which is the highest peak on the chart. Considering it’s there all by itself, it doesn’t look like it’s an ongoing problem. In fact, the very next year, that $2.3 million subsidy was erased by a $2.5 million surplus.
However, this is where it gets more interesting. Page 146 of the 2016 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report says the total cost to operate the jail was $6,767,519. If we flip over to page 138 of the 2017-18 LCG Budget, the detailed cost only adds up to $4,822,943. That’s a difference of $1,944,576.
Where did that money go? Was it spent or wasn’t it? The answer to that question is not clear in the documents. However, if I had to pick one of the two numbers to use, it would be the sum of the more detailed budget number ($4.8 million.) If the jail did, indeed, only cost $4.8 million in 2016, then the premise for bringing a new tax to cover the overage is incorrect and the tax is unnecessary.
Another observation, the ballot language for the jail is written for $6,694,243, which is amazingly close to the false $6.7 million expense number from 2016. If we add the $4,211,369 raised by the “Adult Correctional Facility Maintenance” property tax (which was just approved by voters in November of 2017 for another ten years), the two combined would raise $11 MILLION. The Jail’s total expense last year was $4,950,148. What are they planning to do with the remaining $5,955,464?