Jail sees budget decline

Operating expenses for the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facilities in fiscal year 2013-14 are expected to be down, which means there will be no increase in the share of costs paid by the four owner counties.

The $9.9 million budget for the upcoming year has dropped from $10.2 million in 2012-13 due largely to the resolution of eight past lawsuits and a decline in worker compensation claims.

“We’ve been trying very hard to control some of our losses and get problems from the past resolved and this is the payoff,” said Jim Weed, executive director.

On Thursday, June 20, the NORCOR board of directors adopted the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1. The body of representatives from Wasco, Hood River, Sherman and Gilliam counties convenes in the conference room of the juvenile facility at 211 Webber St. in The Dalles.

The jail books 3,500 to 4,000 adults each year and Weed is constantly looking for ways to scale back costs. He said federal agencies pay about $150,000 per year to rent bed space, a figure that is down dramatically from several years ago and drives his search for efficiencies.

Although the jail was built to provide 150 beds, Weed said the number of inmates on the adult side is capped at 100 due to staffing cutbacks. There can also be up to 50 juveniles incarcerated or participating in a state-run rehabilitation program.

Despite a series of cutbacks in operational costs, he said corrections staff have received a 3 percent cost of living adjustment in their current three-year contract, which expires June 30. He said management has proposed a 1 percent raise for 2013-14 but is still in negotiations with the union representing deputies. Non-union workers — administrators and support staff — receive the same amount given to union employees.

Weed said at least an 11 percent increase in personnel insurance and benefits is expected in the upcoming year.

He said the political environment at the board level has also stabilized with a new funding formula that resulted from last year’s mediation process.

Hood River objected to paying for more beds than it was using on a daily basis, but Wasco objected to changing the original funding mechanism that had been agreed upon by all of the involved counties.

Paul Crowley, presiding judge for the Seventh Judicial District, stepped in to mediate that point of contention and a compromise funding plan was agreed upon. Hood River is now paying 30.2 percent of the counties’ share of the budget, with Wasco responsible for 58.6 percent, Sherman for 5.4 and Gilliam for 5.9.

The jail was built by a bond levy approved by each county of $13 million that will be paid off on Sept. 15, 2016. Weed has budgeted $2.4 million for debt service payments in the upcoming fiscal year.

“Things are going well at NORCOR, I think,” he said. “It’s not perfect yet and some of the employees think I’m too tight but it is what it is.”

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