On Nov. 6, 2018, Crawford County voters will have the opportunity to vote on the Criminal and Administrative Justice Services Levy.
What type of levy is this?
I hope to be able to answer what this levy is and why it is needed in Crawford County.
In 1994, voters passed a 0.5 percent sales tax levy for the construction of the Crawford County Justice Center, as well to pay for the daily operational costs associated with running the Justice Center. This was a 25-year sales tax levy, and it will expire in mid-2019.
This levy has been paying back the jail debt at a rate of approximately $380,000 a year. The rest of the levy revenue goes to the operational budget of the jail. In 2017, the sales tax levy funded $1,673,358 of the $2,410,528.00 budget that was required to run a full-service jail. The remaining funds were transfers that came from the Crawford County General fund.
We have seen increases annually during the last 25 years because the way we operate is different now. They the levy passed in 2004, Crawford County was not facing the opioid crisis that we have today. Our temporary holding cells (book-in) are being used to treat people who come into the jail while withdrawing from heroin and fentanyl, These inmates cannot be placed into general housing until they have gone through the detox process with medical care. We have seen an increase in the number of inmates coming in with infections related to drug use, including HIV, Hepatitis, MRSA, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. Mental health issues also are on the rise. We treat all these conditions because it is the right thing to do and because the State Minimum Jail Standards require us to.
The jail has an annual inspection by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. This year we have to comply with 120 minimum standards in order to pass the inspection. These are unfunded mandates, and we do not have any choice but to follow these guidelines. We are the only full-service jail in Crawford County.
Contract services provided in the jail include inmate food service, finger-printing, inmate health care, utilities, generator and boiler maintenance, inmate clothing and trash removal, just to name a few. These services alone are estimated this year to cost $807,470.92.
Is the Criminal and Administrative Justice Services Levy a new levy?
The answer is yes. It is a new levy because the ballot language has changed. We will no longer have the construction debt to pay off. However, we still have operation and maintenance costs associated with running a jail. With that being said, the current levy is a 0.5 percent sales tax levy and the new levy is a 0.5 percent sales tax levy. One levy expires June 30, 2019. If passed, the new levy will begin July 1, 2019. The citizens of Crawford County will not see any increase in sales tax. We are not able to call it a renewal because the ballot language has changed.
We have a 20-year old building and are seeing an increase in maintenance costs. Some maintenance has been deferred because we could not afford to do repairs. Why does a 20-year old building require maintenance? We are in full operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We don’t shut down at the end of the day or on holidays. When you leave your home, you turn off lights, adjust the thermostat, water is not in use, etc. We do not have this luxury. Lights stay on, air handlers and boilers continue to run, and intercoms, security cameras and monitors are always in use. Electric door locks are activated several hundred times a day. Our inmates are not always respectful of your jail. This year alone, we have spent close to $10,000 painting housing areas and replacing mortar between cement block walls. We have also had windows broken. This is not normal glass, like in a house. This is security glass that can cost up to $1,000 a pane. We criminally charge inmates caught vandalizing or breaking property, but many of them have no means to pay for the damage they cause.
I have been asked if the jail will close if the levy does not pass.
I do not see this as an option. It costs $58-$62 a day, per inmate. To shut down the jail and house prisoners in another jail would be very costly. Looking at some of the housing rates at other jails, we could be looking at a cost of $3.2 million dollars to house inmates somewhere else. My 2017 jail budget was $2.4 million. I would still be required to cover any medical costs for inmates housed elsewhere and would still require staff to transport inmates to and from jails, to court and to medical appointments, which would also require additional vehicles for jail transports. There is no cost savings in shutting down our jail. Our average daily population is 118 inmates. All jails in Ohio are facing overcrowding, including Crawford County. Being realistic, low level offenders would probably be back on the streets committing crimes. Drug use, thefts and burglaries would rise and tear our community apart. In the last five years, we have seen significant decreases in thefts and burglaries associated with drug users trying to support their drug addiction.
The sheriff’s office has to have a fully operational jail. The jail serves a purpose, regardless where you live in Crawford County. The jail houses prisoners who are accused of committing crimes, who are convicted of crimes and serving their court sentence. or those awaiting transport to state prisons. The jail also serves as a deterrent to those who consider committing crimes in Crawford County.
I ask that you support the Criminal and Administrative Justice Services Levy and vote “yes” on Nov. 6.
Thank you for your continued support.