McCracken County leaders regaining confidence in jail

McCRACKEN COUNTY, KY – We’re tracking your tax dollars.  McCracken County Fiscal Court and Jailer Tonya Ray have gone back and forth over the last few months. Commissioners say she went $100,000 dollars over in her overtime budget.

Even if you never step foot inside, you still pay for things at the county jail with taxpayer money.

“When that comes out, people are like where is my tax money going?” Ray said. “And I get that. I pay taxes. My husband and I, we live here in the county. We pay those taxes too.”

“It was a huge misunderstanding with the Fiscal Court and I,” Ray said.

Ray proposed 12 hour shifts: 48 hours one week, 36 the next. She said correctional officers work 43 hours before they are paid overtime. Ray said this schedule is used at other jails.

Once that schedule started, the Fiscal Court noticed that money in the overtime budget was quickly being used up. “We began questioning the strategy the jailer was using for staffing,” Judge Executive Bob Leeper said.

The Fiscal Court moved funds around, which Leeper said isn’t uncommon. The past five years of jail budgets shows line items being shifted around.

From fiscal year 2014 to 2015, more than 65 thousand dollars was moved to cover overtime. From 2015 to 2016, 10 thousand was moved. From 2016 to 2017, about 81 thousand was moved.

“She’s still a 100 thousand dollars over budget,” Commissioner Bill Bartleman said. He said it seems under control now.

Both sides say there was a lack of communication even though their offices are walking distance away from each other. Just over a month ago, the commissioners took a no confidence vote in the jailer and asked her to resign.

Commissioner Scott Wathen is sticking to his vote, but Bartleman doesn’t know if he would.

“I think today in the overall operation of the jail it would be a ….I wouldn’t want to take a vote on it either way,” Bartleman said.

Commissioner Jerry Beyer said he still stands by his vote of no confidence and “attributes the changes to that move on the part of the Fiscal Court”.

The Fiscal Court plans on keeping an eye on the jail’s budget for next year. The new fiscal year starts July 1st.

Jailer Ray has proposed doubling the budget for overtime from 40 thousand to 80 thousand – which it was the year before – and increasing the food budget due to overcrowding.

Leeper said there will be a budget briefing Monday, May 14th in the afternoon. The 1st reading of the budget will be on May 21st.

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