Sheriff’s office gets first approval for $3.1 million to pay off past-due jail bill

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – From now on, the sheriff’s office will pay its bills, the year they’re due.

That’s the message from the city and sheriff’s office, which went before the city-county council’s Public Safety Committee Wednesday evening to request a $7.6 million appropriation to finish out the year.

A little more than half of the request, $4.4 million, will cover retiree health insurance and overtime costs. The other $3.2 million will pay down an overdue bill for the Jail II contractor from 2016.

Frustrated councilors asked why the sheriff’s office didn’t speak up sooner, if they’ve known for years they were paying off last years’ bills with the next years’ cash.

“Why did they wait so late to tell us about this?” asked Councilor Joe Simpson after the meeting. “They did bring it up in budget, but they should’ve brought it up to the extent that, ‘We’re going to come back to y’all and ask you for some more money.’”

And the money is coming out of the general fund, which Councilor Jeff Coats noted could’ve been money spent another way.

“You can’t help but wonder what else $3.1 million dollars would’ve helped pay for,” said Coats. “$3.1 million I imagine would help hire more jail deputies. $3.1 million would help fill potholes.”

Sheriff’s office representatives defended themselves, saying they couldn’t have anticipated some of the costs that started adding up a few years ago.

In 2014, state law forced county jails to house low-level offenders, leaving cities to foot the bill.

In the end, the committee voted  unanimously to approve passage of the funding ordinance. The full council will vote on the measure December 4th.