Expenses increase for the Benton County Jail

KEPR is always tracking your tax dollars. We learned the Benton County Jail is looking for ways to cut expenses or bring in more money after the cost to run the jail has gone up. Action News looked at how they're handling your money.

A county-wide budget deficit looms overhead

"Right now, we're about as skinny as can be," said Benton County Sheriff Steve Keane.

While the Benton County Jail gets hit with more expenses to house inmates.

"We're responsible for medical, we're responsible for feeding them and the food that goes with that," added Sheriff Keane.

It costs over $15,000,000 a year to operate the jail. That's about a million more than just a couple years ago. The increase is blamed on higher wages and benefits for union members. But it's also due to fixed costs for food and medical services. To keep the budget afloat, the jail is planning to freeze additional hiring.

"We've reduced it all through attrition," said Sheriff Keane.

Fewer inmates are being housed at the jail these days. Which raises the actual cost per prisoner. Outside contracts to house out-of-town inmates used to help offset that. But now -- not as often.

"Another reason for the decrease in regional inmates? Officials tell me laws make it so these prisoners now get less jail time."

It's one more reason the costs are up.

"Pretty soon - you're going to have to make some tough decisions - you either book less people in or find money in the budget to operate our jail," explained Sheriff Keane.

The Benton County Jail hopes to get new, more extensive contracts with the Department of Corrections.
Bringing more inmates to our local jail -- could help balance the budget.

Officials also tell KEPR it's still seeking a contract with the City of Spokane and Spokane County. They should reach a decision by the end of the year. It's also notable to mention the budget proposal is set in motion this week.