How does sheriff spend existing jail money?

How does sheriff spend existing jail money? »Play Video

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EUGENE, Ore. - Voters face a May 21 vote on a tax levy to support the Lane County Jail.

The jail is part of the Lane County Sheriff's Office budget, which is $57 million.

Where does that money go?

The jail alone costs $19 million, the lion's share of which goes towards payroll and benefits, according to the sheriff's office and the county budget.

To operate 135 jails beds this year, the sheriff will spend $12.22 million on staff; $4.36 million on inmate medical, food, utilities and other materials and services; and $2.37 million to other county departments for services, like county counsel and human resources.

Those 135 beds aren't enough to hold all people accused of crimes until they face trial or post bail. As a result, even people accused of some serious crimes are let go in what are known as "capacity based releases."

A proposed 5-year tax levy would raise over $15 million to open jail beds. Ten percent would fund beds in the juvenile detention facility.

The county projects that the measure would allow the jail to operate 255 jail beds for local offenders, almost double the current number.

Conversely, the sheriff predicts the jail could shrivel to as few as 26 beds in two years if nothing happens.

The cost of operating the jail has outpaced the growth in property taxe revenues available to the sheriff's office. The county is also coping with the loss of Secure Rural Schools and Communities money. That law was a federal subsidy to timber counties, intended to replace timber revenues from federal lands lost as the timber harvest has declined.