It appears Lee County has come up with a way to pay for a planned expansion of the county jail.
Sheriff Jim Sholl has said the expansion would address a female inmate population that is growing much faster than previously anticipated.
The Board of Supervisors voted in October to hire an architect to move the project forward. The plan also calls for the addition of medium security cells.
The estimated price tag for adding 26 beds is $450,000.
The board’s vote did not identify from where that money would come.
Chairman Rick Larkin and Vice Chairman Ernie Schiller believe they have come up with an option for paying the money.
Larkin says, after meeting with the county budget director and bond counsel, that the county should borrow the money to take advantage of low interest rates.
“It’s probably a better thing for the taxpayer because their taxes aren’t going to go up nearly as high as if we paid it out of just one budget,” says Larkin.
The repayment plan would likely require an increase of somewhere between three cents and seven cents in the property tax rate for the next 10-20 years.
Larkin says the county would only have to hold a public hearing, as opposed to a special election, because it would have to borrow less than $750,000.
The date for the hearing could be set during the board’s next meeting.
MENTAL HEALTH FUNDING
Meanwhile, a policy change at the state level will significantly impact the Lee County department that oversees care for those with mental health and other developmental disabilities.
Central Point of Coordination Administrator Ryanne Wood says her office’s share of county property tax revenue will shrink by nearly $500,000 in the next budget.
She says that will mean fewer services for residents who meet certain income guidelines.
The funding cut is due to the plan to redesign the state’s mental health care system.
It eliminates the current funding formula for local services, which benefitted Lee County and replaces it with a standard, per-capita fee.
Wood says case managers are looking for ways to make up for the lost revenue.
The reduction in property tax money for the CPC office will allow Lee County to cut next year’s property tax rate by $0.50.