September 17, 2014

State cuts jail programs by $33,000 in Ogemaw, Arenac counties

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STANDISH — The state of Michigan slashed the PA511 program funding to Ogemaw and Arenac counties by $33,000 effective April 30, restricting the counties’ ability to run inmate programs and work-release.

The two counties share a community corrections program, with Ogemaw County taking the role as fiduciary. Ogemaw County Commissioner Bruce Reetz told the Ogemaw County Herald the program had $49,951 remaining in its budget for the rest of the year before the cut.

Sgt. Mike Badour with the Arenac County Sheriff’s Department said all operations in Arenac County related to PA511 will cease until further notice until the joint Community Corrections Advisory Board knows where it stands financially.

“What it cut in the jail here was the jail substance abuse program and the cognitive self-change program,” Badour said. “Those were put on by the Sterling Area Health Center, and they were advised that they would have to cease their classes.”

He said the money also helped finance GED programs for inmates, community service trips. With the PA511 funding shut down, Badour said the community service and sheriff work crews will continue, but will not be run with state money.

Badour said the sheriff’s department will work on negotiating a new community corrections program contract in December for the next fiscal year, but until that point, it will be operating at the bare minimum for running programs.

George Goodchild, chairman of the 511 committee for Ogemaw and Arenac counties, said the formula the state used impacted their jails a lot harder than most others in the state due to the counties’ specific circumstances.

“Our 511 committee in 2011 was a little late in getting going, because it was shut down for a while,” he said. “They based how much they’d take from us based on how much we spent in fiscal years 2011 and 2012, and we of course, just getting started, didn’t spend anywhere near all our money.”

Since the committee spent little in 2011, its reduction was much harsher than it would have been if the committee had been in operation through both years, Goodchild said.

Since the committee had been spending its funds under the assumption it would have that $33,000 on hand, Goodchild said they are effectively broke for the rest of the year.

“It’s halfway through the year, so we’ve spent money, and now they’re basically cutting us 50 percent,” he said.

Prior to the reduction and the last round of invoices, he said they had $49,000 in their budget. With all the programs halted for the moment, Goodchild said the committee will wait for all the invoices to come in before meeting and determining how much money is left to work with for the year.

“We had to freeze it, because we don’t want people working that we can’t pay,” he said.

The cut runs for two years, so the counties will need to work with approximately $56,000 next year for PA511 funding, well below the $89,000 the committee received last year. He anticipated that next year’s budget would cut out work from the Sterling Area Health Center, but is not sure of specific impacts at this time.

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