Two Bridges Regional Jail will cut 15 positions within the next two months due to a loss of revenue from boarding arrangements with other counties and a decline in population amid COVID-19.
The Lincoln and Sagadahoc Multicounty Jail Authority Board of Directors approved its 2020-2021 budget Wednesday, June 17. The budget reflects a cap on average daily population at 75 inmates and a minimum per-day boarding rate of $65, as well as the layoffs.
Col. James Bailey, administrator of the jail, said that after the meeting, he had to write the most difficult email he has ever written, informing staff of the pending layoffs.
Two Bridges has contracts with other counties to board their inmates. When Waldo County did not renew its contract last year, “we began a painful process of managing our budget with a big loss in revenue,” Bailey said in the email to staff.
During a telephone interview June 19, Bailey said the jail can no longer depend on revenue from boarding contracts to support jail operations, because boarding revenue is in decline.
The jail’s contract with Penobscot County will expire at the end of July, and will not be renewed. Penobscot County is considering whether to build a new jail in Bangor.
On Wednesday, the jail board approved a six-month contract to house up to 25 inmates from Oxford County for $280,000, but Oxford County plans to house its own inmates in the future.
Under the new budget, the jail will primarily house only Lincoln and Sagadahoc county inmates. The two counties own and manage the jail together, but their inmates have long made up only a minority of its population.
Layoffs will occur in two phases, in mid-July and August. Of the 15 positions, two are vacant. The jail will lay off 12 full-time employees and two part-time employees for a total of 14, equivalent to 13 full-time positions.
“Every staff member here is like family to me,” Bailey said. “We put our safety, our lives, in each other’s hands. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do.”
Bailey has contacted the Maine Department of Corrections and the Maine Department of Labor in an attempt to provide job opportunities and resources for employees being laid off.
He will form a transition team to plan the transition from 55 to 40 employees. In addition to Bailey and his assistant administrator, Maj. William Frith, the team will include supervisors and representatives of the corrections officers and support staff.
The 2020-2021 budget reflects a decrease in the salaries line from $2.71 million in 2019-2020 to $1.99 million. Boarding revenues are down from $803,250 in 2019-2020 to $351,937.50.
Expenses total $5,486,891, down $625,690 or 10.24%.
They include, in order by amount: salaries and wages, $1,990,829; benefits, $1,662,638; professional services, $1,037,104; utilities, $404,000; maintenance and repair, $136,600; insurance liability, $112,295; supplies, $101,050; clothing, $15,500; general operating, $9,575; travel and vehicles, $8,000; capital, $6,000; other, $3,000; and rentals, $300.
Revenues total $5,249,302.50, down $455,562.50 or 7.99%. Revenues include: Lincoln and Sagadahoc County assessments, $4,875,615; boarding and contracts, $351,937.50; and other, $21,750.
If expenses and revenues come in as budgeted, the jail would have a deficit of $237,588.50. The budget would use $170,000 from carry-forward and surplus, plus $67,588.50 from operating reserves, to balance the budget.
The cuts will not affect the jail’s new medication-assisted treatment program, which addresses addiction among inmates. The state funds that program, according to Bailey.