Muscogee Co. Jail’s budget discussed at city council meeting

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The Muscogee County Sheriff calls the proposed jail budget bare bones, but it still may not be enough.

Sheriff John Darr says there's very little wiggle room in his recommended budget for the upcoming fiscal year that comes to about $26.8 million.

Darr laid out his financial plan Tuesday line by line to the budget review committee.

"I'm not going to stand there before the citizens and say we'll get rid of this and this," said Sheriff Darr. "I don't have that flexibility. I don't have that luxury. Security of every government building that the city has is my responsibility."

Darr says deputies and bailiffs guarding security checkpoints at city government buildings is one major cost and inmate medical expenses. Paul Morris, health services administrator at the jail, agrees the budget is already tight.

"If the community wanted the Sheriff to incarcerate fewer people or if the community wanted the Sheriff to deny those people the constitutional required standard of care, there's your wiggle room," said Morris.

The jail saw about 14,000 inmates last year, according to the sheriff. But his proposed budget is about $2 million more than the Mayor's.

"I know with other department heads we've talked about taking it out of next year's budget if they go over," said Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.

Sheriff Darr, Finance Director Pam Hodge and Mayor Tomlinson say they will come together to see if they can come to a meeting of the minds with the numbers to see if they can get to a balanced budget within about two weeks.

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