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The Burnet County Jail is on trend to meet its budgeted expenditures and revenues for the 2023-24 fiscal year despite a rocky start and the rising costs of goods and services. The lockup is one of the single-largest expenses for the county, and its operation is a delicate balancing act.

After months of work acquiring new contracts and bringing on a full staff, the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office could end FY 2023-24 with the jail budget in the black. 

“Revenue-wise, we’re ahead of the curve,” said Chief Deputy Alan Trevino in an interview with DailyTrib.com after the regular meeting of the Burnet County Commissioners Court on June 28. “We started off the year below the mark, but here we are, nine months later, and we’re significantly above it.”

The Burnet County Jail is funded by revenues derived from out-of-county prisoner intakes. For FY 2023-24, the jail must make at least $5.16 million to hit its target revenues. The fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, and the jail seems to be on track to meet or exceed projected revenues, according to Burnet County Auditor Karin Smith.

“Right now, the jail is on trend to cover budgeted expenditures this year,” Smith told DailyTrib.com. 

The jail’s total yearly budget is roughly $9 million. This figure is made up of projected revenues, $5.16 million this year, and a contribution from the county general fund.

This year, the county plans to contribute about $3.8 million to the jail’s budget. If the jail were not able to meet its target revenues, the county would be forced to make up the difference. 

Burnet County Judge James Oakley explained to DailyTrib.com that the jail is not necessarily designed to be profitable or cover all of its own costs. It is an essential public service.

“The jail is just a very expensive thing,” he said. “Its never a break-even thing.”

For perspective, the county’s FY 2023-24 operating budget is about $40 million. The $3.8 million contributed to the jail is 9.5 percent of the county’s total operating expenses. 

The Commissioners Court approved an interlocal agreement with Bexar County during the June 28 meeting that will allow for up to 120 inmates to be transferred to the Burnet County Jail from Bexar County. That should bring in significant revenues. This new contract helps make up for a once-lucrative contract with Bell County that was cut in half in 2023, from 200 prisoners to 100.

The Bexar County contract is just the latest in a series of positive moves made by the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office to bolster the jail’s finances. The jail also became fully staffed in May, meaning more efficient operations and a decrease in unbudgeted overtime expenditures.

The jail’s fiscal health was brought under the public eye in November 2023 when Judge Oakley and Auditor Smith raised concerns about a drastic increase in medical expenses and lagging numbers at the outset of FY 2023-24. 

These concerns were addressed with the formation of a committee that examined the jail’s operations and identified means of how they could be improved. 

When the committee was formed in December 2023, the jail faced a 64 percent increase to its medical coverage costs, from $771,000 to $1.265 million. This was the lowest bid received for medical services, according to BCSO Capt. Matt Kimbler, who runs the jail.

While medical costs were a blow, the jail is currently managing well, according to Chief Deputy Trevino.

“Numbers look good all the way around,” he said.

dakota@thepicayune.com