While Lycoming County commissioners are set to approve a $97.1 million 2013 operating budget at their meeting Thursday, one line item has had a dramatic increase.
Since the proposed 2013 budget was unveiled on Nov. 15, a $200,000 expense for housing county inmates at neighboring prisons has been added. That's on top of $400,000 that already was included as the prison and pre-release center are at near capacity.
The Lycoming County Prison holds 255 inmates, while the pre-release center has room for 137. With space at a premium, some inmates are being transferred to Clinton and Centre counties at a cost of about $65 a day per inmate. An agreement also is in place with Tioga County, according to Kevin DeParlos, Lycoming County Prison warden, although no inmates from Lycoming County presently are being sent there, he said.
Exterior view of the Lycoming County Prison as seen Tuesday.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR.
DeParlos said agreements with Snyder and Columbia counties also are being pursued.
Commissioners are stuck with trying to secure funding for the prison housing crunch.
"We don't have any choice," said Commissioner Jeff Wheeland.
Although Act 13 natural gas impact fee funding could technically be used to pay for such costs, Wheeland and Beth Johnston, county director of fiscal services, said not using it allows that money to be spent on road, bridge and other infrastructure improvements.
Inmate housing presently costs the county about $50,000 a month, Johnston said - a dramatic increase from the $12,500 a year budgeted by the county just last year.
"With no end in sight, we budgeted $600,000 for 2013," Johnston said.
The budget, expected to be approved Thursday by commissioners, marks the ninth year in a row without a tax increase. Public works, public safety and human services costs make up the bulk of the county's expenditures. The projected $86.1 million in revenue is primarily made up of taxes, grants and fees.