Tether fee increase consideredPublished 10:24am Thursday, January 24, 2013
ST. JOSEPH — Berrien County’s tether fund has been waning for five years, from a beginning 2008 fund balance of $366,982 to -$9,214 at the end of last year.
“It needed about $10,000 to go into the black to get through 2012,” according to County Administrator Bill Wolf. “This is the first time in anybody’s memory the general fund has had to pump in money.”
In the past, the tether fund supported two full-time pretrial positions within Trial Court, as well as 50 percent of the funding for the first year of the jail psychologist.
The tether fund currently supports one fulltime clerk, four 1,000-hour temps and covers a gap between the community corrections grant and actual expenditures for the fulltime tether deputy position and the jail population monitor position.
“The community corrections grant covers about $108,000 of the tether program every year,” Wolf said. “The balance has to be picked up by fees, backed up with fund balance. The numbers have dropped from a high of 65 to around 40, which reduces our revenue.
“If the tether program is going to continue to be self-funded, we’re going to have to do something to increase revenues. That $108,000 from the state may be reduced starting in October. It hasn’t hit us yet, but that’s another pressure. It’s a good program, it’s a necessary program that’s paid off in less jail overcrowding, but more than that, it is an opportunity for people who screw up and land in jail, but have a job, to keep working.”
A resolution on Thursday’s agenda would raise each tether fee by $3, such as installation ($50 to $53); ankle ($12 a day to $15) and alcohol monitor ($18 a day to $21).
“That’s going to generate around $50,000 a year,” Wolf said. “And we’re going to reduce temporary deputies from 4,000 hours to 3,200 hours.”
Commissioners on Thursday will also consider signing an agreement with the Michigan State Court Administrative Office to continue the Swift and Sure sanctions pilot program and perhaps expand it into the Niles area.
This program, modeled on one in Hawaii, targets adult felony probationers identified as high-risk for failing probation, according to a validated risk and needs assessment instrument, past probation failures — especially due to alcohol/drug use — failure to appear for appointments or re-offending.
Berrien County submitted an application approved effective Jan. 1-Sept. 30 for a grant amount of $304,626 with no match requirement.
That’s about $100,000 more than allocated previously.
Swift and Sure is part of an ongoing effort to bring Michigan prison costs in line with surrounding states. Once implemented statewide, it is estimated to save taxpayers $25 million annually, enabling the state to redirect funding to other priorities, such as education and economic development.