By Kathi Bliss
Citing an agreement made with a prior County Judge, Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law threatened on Monday to stop housing Federal Inmates, a move that could cost the county upwards of $900,000 per year.
The statement, which Law called “a promise, not a threat,” came after Caldwell County Judge Tom Bonn introduced a budget for the coming fiscal year that withholds the third step of a five-year incremental pay increase plan, and instead offers a $1,000 across-the-board pay increase.
“When I started housing those Federal inmates and took on that liability for the people of this county, the agreement was that the funds we made by doing so were going to be used to help get our pay in line,” Law said. “That money is not for the Court to do whatever they want to do with it, and if they’re not going to use it for what they are supposed to be using it for, I will send every one of those Federal inmates back.”
Presently, the Caldwell County Jail houses an average of 60 Federal inmates, at a per diem rate of $42 per inmate per day. Law said he hopes to have that per diem rate increased in the coming fiscal year, a move that will generate still more revenue for the County coffers.
“The per diem is set by the US Marshals and it’s based on what it costs to house the inmates,” County Auditor Larry Roberson explained to the Commissioners after being questioned as to why Caldwell County’s per diem rate is so much lower than the rates in other areas. “I can’t tell them that our costs of housing are the same as Bastrop County, or anywhere else, because part of that is our pay rate, and other places pay more than we do.”
However, Roberson also noted that the Federal Inmate Revenue, like other revenue sources, is deposited into the County’s General Fund, where it becomes part of a pool of resources used to meet the county’s expenses. It would be difficult, he said, to allocate those funds strictly to the steps of the pay increase plan, because the revenue is not guaranteed.
However, Law dug in his heels with the Court, insisting that his department, as well as other Caldwell County emergency services and departments, have greater needs and that the Federal Inmate Revenue should be dedicated to meeting those needs.
“This isn’t just for my people,” he said. “This is for all the County employees, and if you aren’t going to use that money to take care of our employees, then I’m not going to take on the liability for our taxpayers.”
The Commissioners Court will hold a public hearing on the budget and tax rate on Monday, Aug. 25 during their regular meeting. The proposed budget is available online at www.co.caldwell.tx.us.
In brief news:
The Commissioners opted to leave the outdoor burning ban in place as temperatures soar and fire conditions worsen throughout the county.
They appointed Dr. Jamila Stone as the representative for Caldwell County to serve as the local health authority. Stone will assist the county with implementing quarantines to protect the health of the public, as well as disease prevention, suppression, birth and death statistics.
They opened bids for JP 2 Office on Fannin Street, in Luling, and Design Build Retrofit for Juvenile Detention Center. The bids will be reviewed by Roberson and Maintenance Supervisor Curtis Weber, and recommendations will be presented during the court’s next regular meeting.
The Court approved a variety of budget amendments relating to the Caldwell County Justice Center and the now-defunct Caldwell County Medical Assist Team.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court routinely meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the Conference and Training Center at the LW Scott Annex. The meetings are open to the public and webcast at www.co.caldwell.tx.us.