Budget Battle

It takes a lot of money to run the Angelina County jail. Last year, the facility had an average daily population of 274 prisoners, including evacuees.

Feeding all of them cost $2.50 a day for each; not to mention inmate supplies, including towels and uniforms.

The sheriff came up with a solution to save the county a little money.

"Whenever they see the nurse it's $5," said Sheriff Henson. "When they see the (physician's assistant) it's $10. Their prescription is $15. That cut down the amount of people that was getting medical in there because they had to make up their mind: 'well, do I want something out of commissary or do I want to go see the nurse'?"

Even with added fees, the sheriff's office still spent about $12,000 on inmate medical care last year.

The jail spends a lot of money on water - the staff washes a hundred loads of clothes a day -  and fuel - transporting inmates to and from court, prison, and mental health facilities. The jail also spent more than $150,000 on electricity for the jail last year. Next year, that bill is expected to be even higher.

County Judge Joe Berry said, "That's a big addition to our budget. We've been told that our electrical rate will probably double."

County commissioners said their goal is to balance between what is needed and what revenue is available for funding.

Judge Berry said Angelina County is in better shape than other counties because of its revenue and sales tax, but Sheriff Henson wants to know why his jail staff and dispatchers are still some of the lowest paid people in the county.

"They make $22,000 a year," Sheriff Henson said. "We work 24 hours a day, 7 days and nights a week and our deputies make $26,200, where a road and bridge operator makes $27,600."

The commissioners court has now heard from each of the 15 department heads. Members are now going back through the budget to see where cuts can be made before making decisions on who will get what.