Jeffco expects bad finance report, sheriff seeking bigger budget

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The fate of Jefferson County finances are expected to come during a Wednesday meeting. The Jefferson County Commission's finance committee will hear a financial update from acting Finance Director Travis Hulsey. Also, elected county officials are expected to present their budget needs and problems.

Recently, a $10 Million budget cut forced Sheriff Mike Hale to put deputies and civilian workers on administrative leave without pay. Hale also shut down the county jail in Bessemer. "We would like to open the Bessemer Jail. We got a hundred inmates sleeping on the floor. Personnel is short, not a good situation for our deputies," says sheriff's spokesperson Lt. Randy Christian.
            
Christian says the overcrowded jails open the county to a potential lawsuit. Commissioner Bobby Humphryes hopes to give Hale additional funding. "My only concern is getting people back to work. I'm not going to support increasing people's budget other than what it takes to get these people back to work," Humphryes said.

Sheriff Hale will be meeting with the Jefferson County Finance Committee on Wednesday morning. He says he will ask for a return of $5-million to his budget. $1.6-million will be used to return 16 deputies and 21 civilians to their jobs and $2-million will be used to reopen the Bessemer Jail. The remaining cost will be used to fully staff Birmingham and Bessemer Jails.

It will take three votes on the county commission to increase Hale's budget. Commissioner Shelia Smoot would like to give the sheriff more money but doubts it will happen."I'm willing to compromise if the funding is available. However we have to be careful. We are two months into the year. I don't think there is enough time to make that call," Smoot said.
            
County Commissioners expect to hear Wednesday that tax collections are down, so additional revenues will be hard to find. "The economy is in a downward spiral. The economy has no bottom out yet," Jim Carns, Jefferson Co. Commissioner said.
             
With tight funding some county commissioners do not believe it is time to open up all four satellite courthouses. The county shut down the satellite courthouses because of money problems involving the occupational tax. The county started collecting the job tax again and opened the Homewood and Centerpoint satellite courthouses. The county is considering adding the Gardendale and Fultondale satellite courthouses. "It's absurd. We are talking about open two more satellite courthouses when we got people laid off work. That is ridiculous to do that," Humphryes said.

Commissioner Carns disagrees. He says it will not cost that much but it may be costly to keep the other two facilities closed. "The only satellite courthouse we own is Centerpoint. The others have long term leases we cannot get out of," Carns said.