As you know I try to send out timely news information that will help the commissioners, sheriff and council to make informed decisions on their jail situations.  The legislature finished on March 14th and did some things that will impact how you have to proceed with your potential jail construction and its funding.

I am not sure how many counties received a “non-compliance” letter from the Department of Corrections but I do know that approximately twenty five (25) of the ninety one (91) counties with jails have issues that would certainly put them in non-compliance jeopardy.  Given the options of funding a jail, the only real practical option for counties is for them to use a version of an income tax.  Since most of the letters have come out in the last year, counties have not been able to react to the necessary time line to put them into the legislature for a special purpose tax (if that was their chosen funding option) for this last session.  The governor and the legislature are keenly aware of the inevitable requests that would come their way during the next session starting in November of 2018.  So, the governor, given the number of phone calls from various counties, knowing how unhappy most were with the DOC letters, and the legislature made some changes.

Jail Funding HB 1263/ Feasibility Study

(Relevant sections)

  • A county fiscal body (council) may adopt an ordinance to impose an income tax rate for correctional facilities… It must be in increments of 0.01% and not exceed 0.20%…and can be in effect for no more than twenty (20) years. (Typical bond duration).  And, it will not be shared with other “share holders” as is the case with income taxes outside this provision.  This is an attempt to minimize the number of counties that would come to the legislature next session.  Very significant option now afforded counties.  It may not be enough, in some cases, to cover annual bond costs, and added operational/staffing costs.
  • County commissioners may not enter into a Regional Jail agreement without first having the approval of all the councils and sheriffs involved. It also listed a number of requirements should this be pursued. (Very unlikely to be considered by any counties given the difficulties involved).
  • The county commissioners must prepare a feasibility study of possible alternatives which would include:
  1. Feasibility of housing inmates in the county jail of another county or in a multicounty jails established by two or more counties.
  2. Projection of the county’s future jail needs and an estimate of the number and characteristics of future inmates.
  3. An estimates of the costs, tax rates, and debt service amounts as a result of each of the alternatives addressed by the feasibility study.

The law states that after June 30, 2018 “a county may not begin construction….or submit plans to the DOC… unless they have first went through the feasibility studies above.  This could be a bit confusing for those already well into the process.

  • The county must hold a public hearing on the issues described in the feasibility study

Although I cannot find the area in HB1263, the summaries that came out earlier stated that the 0.20% had to fall within the limits already provided.  Some counties may have to enact a combination of this unshared provision with more income tax that is shared to cover the annual costs.

Fulton County, after all, did get 0.25%; Jennings got incremental tax increase not to exceed 0.65% (obviously not having a valid budget yet).  Union, Tipton and Randolph got language modifications to their special purpose tax already in place.


With the proposed new tariffs that will be imposed on many of our trading countries the possibility of a trade war is troubling to the cost of jails.  Remember, 40% of the cost of a jail is in security items.  And, most of those items are made of steel as is a large part of the other 60% of the items.  We have already gotten notice that the cost of conduit is going up 15%.  I am afraid this may be just the beginning of a number of other material price increases.  Steel cells comprise a larger number in the costs.  They are monitoring things closely and expect increases in the 5-8% range.  From our point of view, re-pricing of these products about three to four times through design to monitor increases will be necessary.