Editorial: Correcting county jail funding

The City of Tulsa is not paying its fair share for the operational costs of the county jail.

That is the problem in a nutshell.

County officials, including Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo and County Assessor Ken Yazel, think it is patently unfair for citizens in Tulsa County outside the City of Tulsa to subsidize prisoners. Tulsa is not paying what it should to house prisoners.

The jail is funded by a countywide sales tax along with a few other sources, including the county’s general fund. The Tulsa County Budget Board has been looking into this problem for years with no consent and little cooperation from past and present mayors and councilors.

Essentially, the county has been subsidizing the city for millions and millions of dollars and the stalling tactics of the negotiations need to come to an end.

Both Smaligo and Yazel want a reasonable solution. Tulsa pays less for its part of the jail operation than Broken Arrow spends on its small jail annually.

The City of Tulsa doesn’t handle anything very well and officials should be happy that they have a county jail system they can rely on. Running a jail is a giant headache and it is particularly troublesome when the biggest “partner” is unwilling to contribute sufficient funding. Part of the problem has been that certain county commissioners have not pressed the issue. Now Smaligo has.  Tulsa needs to become serious about negotiations and to settle on an increased payment the cover the genuine costs of incarcerating prisoners.

Government is expert at disguising costs. Tulsa doesn’t need a tax increase for the jail – it just needs city officials to step up to the plate and fulfill their responsibilities.