Tulsa County gave the Sheriff’s Office approximately $3.7 million in fiscal year 2015 to cover operating expenses at the Tulsa Jail, and the Sheriff’s Office is already $2 million in the hole for the current fiscal year, according to records provided by the county Fiscal Office.
The $3.7 million includes $1.7 million from the county’s general fund; $500,000 from Tulsa County Parks Department; and $1.5 million from the county’s risk management fund.
The risk management fund is used to pay expenses, including premiums and claims, associated with the operation of the county’s insurance program.
The $2 million includes three months of payments owed to the jail’s medical provider, Armor Correctional Health Services, totaling $1.5 million. The other $500,000 is owed to Tulsa County for the first half of the current fiscal year. The county has pledged to give the Sheriff’s Office a total of $1 million over the fiscal year.
The county has used savings from other offices and capital programs to repay its risk management fund approximately $1 million, but as of Tuesday there was no plan in place to recoup the other funds provided to the Sheriff’s Office in fiscal year 2015, which ended in June.
Tulsa County is made up of eight separate offices, including the Sheriff’s Office, that are overseen by elected officials. Typically, those offices are funded with a combination of property taxes and other fees specific to the office.
The Tulsa Jail, operated by the Sheriff’s Office, is funded differently. Most of its operating revenue comes from a quarter-cent countywide sales tax approved by voters.
For the past several years, that tax has failed to cover costs, leaving the Sheriff’s Office to make up the difference with other revenue streams, including fees paid by the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the state of Oklahoma and the city of Tulsa to house inmates in the jail.
When those fees and others failed to make up for the shortfall, the Sheriff’s Office turned to other county offices, whose spending decisions are overseen by the county Budget Board. The board is made up of the eight county elected officials.
During Tuesday’s Budget Board meeting, Acting Sheriff Michelle Robinette said she has identified $500,000 that could be used to pay the jail’s medical provider.
She was less optimistic about finding revenue to pay back the $1 million that county has pledged to the Sheriff’s Office this fiscal year.
“I’m not sure how to answer that today,” Robinette said. “We’re looking at it. … I can’t give you a good solid answer for that today.”
Robinette said she is working to increase the jail’s revenue stream by redirecting fees for inmate phone calls and commissary operations back into the jail’s operating account.
“It’s a revenue generator back to the jail,” she said. “It needs to go back to the jail.”
Currently, the revenue goes into the Sheriff’s Office cash fee account for purposes determined by the sheriff.
County Commissioner and Budget Board Member John Smaligo indicated he was not optimistic that the Sheriff’s Office would be able to repay the $1 million the county has pledged for operations this fiscal year.
“It’s disappointing,” Smaligo said. “I just feel like it’s something this board needs to brace itself for.”
At the end of fiscal year 2013 and the end of fiscal year 2014, the Fiscal Office had to stop payments on hundreds of thousands of dollars in invoices because the Sheriff’s Office did not have the money to pay them. The bills were placed on the following year’s ledger, leaving the Sheriff’s Office in the hole right out of the gate.
Sheriff’s Office officials have for years blamed the shortfalls on the rising cost of utilities, health-care services and other basics needed to run the jail. They’ve also argued that the state of Oklahoma and the city of Tulsa should be paying more to hold their inmates in the jail.
Records provided by the Fiscal Office, however, show that operating and capital expenditures — excluding salaries — at the jail decreased in fiscal year 2015, but salaries increased by nearly 17 percent.
The jail’s overall operating expenses, meanwhile, have increased each of the last three fiscal years, from $33.3 million in 2013 to $34.7 million in 2014 to $38.1 million in 2015.
Investigations by The Frontier have found some expenses not related to jail operations and others only marginally related were being paid for out of jail funds.
Tuesday morning, county officials took another small step intended to begin rectifying the financial situation at the Sheriff’s Office.
County commissioners approved a repayment by the Sheriff’s Office of $276,024 to the the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority, which oversees revenue generated by jail sales tax.
The repayment was necessary because the Sheriff’s Office had used the jail sales tax to pay for security guards at the Tulsa County Courthouse in 2013 and 2014. The sales tax can only be used for operations at the jail, county officials say.
The financial woes at the jail came to a head last week when Acting Sheriff Rick Weigel and Chief Deputy John Bowman suddenly resigned after a heated meeting with other county officials regarding funding for construction of the Stanley Glanz Law Enforcement Training Center.
At the heart of the issue was whether the Sheriff’s Office had enough money in its cash fee account to move forward with construction of the training center and still be in a position to cover its costs at the jail and pay the county back.
According to the county Fiscal Office, the Sheriff’s Office estimates it will raise about $3 million in its cash fee account this fiscal year and spend approximately $4 million. The shortfall is to be made up from the cash fee reserve fund, which as of Dec. 31 totaled $1.4 million, county records show.
The cash fee fund includes money the Sheriff’s Office collects for taking fingerprints and photos for licenses, serving warrants and other services.
After last week’s meeting with county officials, Weigel issued an internal memo stating that because of the budget shortfall at the jail, work on the training center would cease as would a plan to provide one-time longevity payments to employees.
The memo also stated that staffing at the jail could be reduced and that the Sheriff’s Office contract with Physical Therapy of Tulsa would be terminated. An investigation by The Frontier found the company, linked to a former undersheriff’s wife, had been paid nearly $300,000 since 2012 to conduct physicals that cost at least $800 each.
The Sheriff’s Office thus far has spent or encumbered approximately $2.2 million to build the training center. The figure includes actual construction costs and bonding fees.
The 26,000-square-foot training center at 6094 E. 66th St. North is intended to provide a place for Sheriff’s Office employees and other area law enforcement agencies to train.
The training center is expected to include classrooms and conference rooms, a dispatch center, a weight-training facility, bunks for overnight stays and a kitchen.
A 1,632-foot range house will include offices for the shooting range staff as well a simulator and classroom. A mile-long driver training track and urban training village are also part of the project.
The Sheriff’s Office is using its cash account to make bond payments and build the facility.
The brochure created to promote the training center states that employees decided to name the facility the Sheriff Stanley Glanz Law Enforcement Training Center “in honor of Sheriff Glanz’s continued commitment to education and training.”
In September, a Tulsa County grand jury indicted Glanz on two misdemeanors. He resigned and is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.
No decision has been made regarding whether Glanz’s name will remain on the training center once it is completed.