Three area counties have continued to put in additional money to keep the Central Minnesota Juvenile Center running.
Tuesday, Crow Wing County Commissioners heard that may be the continuing financial forecast.
"To operate this will cost the counties a lot of money, there is no question about that," said Michael Kafka, CMJC executive director.
The juvenile center in Brainerd is operated in part by the funding of Aitkin, Crow Wing and Morrison counties. The three counties operate Central Minnesota Communities Corrections - with adult and juvenile probation and the juvenile detention center - through a joint powers group. That group will meet Wednesday in Brainerd. The combined county boards are seeking to balance the desire to keep the juvenile center open against the costs to taxpayers.
After an August inspection, the Minnesota Department of Corrections dropped the juvenile center's capacity from 40 beds for juveniles to 16.
The 35-page DOC report found that the juvenile center did not comply with rules governing policy and procedures relating to the safety of staff and residents.
Safety concerns were cited in both the physical building and in operations. A chief concern included reducing the risk of juveniles committing suicide.
t costs about $1 million annually to operate the juvenile facility. The juvenile center's financial losses in recent years amounted to $539,874 in 2000, $344,713 in 2001, $184,655 in 2002, $441,450 in 2003, $362,119 in 2004 and $45,639 in 2006. In 2005, the center had an income of $911,891 after more than $1 million was transferred into the fund.
For 2007, Crow Wing County planned to pay $301,787 for the county's use of programming and detention services. Aitkin County's budgeted $135,000 and Morrison County budgeted $211,000. In addition, each county budgeted additional money to pay for anticipated budget overruns.
Crow Wing County budgeted an additional $115,000, Aitkin County added $60,000 and Morrison County added $75,000. For the past three years, each of the three counties has contributed more money beyond what they paid for services in order to keep the juvenile center operating.
As of March 31, the juvenile center had a negative cash balance of $300,524. The juvenile center has been operating with a monthly deficit of $40,000 on average for the past six months. As of April, Kafka is requesting county funding of $236,073 to bring the juvenile center's fund balance back to zero. Crow Wing County's portion of that bill is expected to be about $108,593 of the $115,000 it budgeted as a contingency.
And a Crow Wing County auditor's office financial analysis released Tuesday indicates the juvenile center's current revenues will not meet year-end budget goals.
"The solvency of the juvenile center under its current structure is in question and has been for some time," the auditor's report stated.
Limited to a license for 16 juvenile beds at the detention center, Kafka said there is no way the juvenile center can get to a break-even situation. The state Department of Corrections placed the bed limit after an inspection of the center found numerous violations. Kafka has been trying to get the DOC to increase the licensed amount to 28 beds.
Kafka became the center's executive director in 2005. He said news accounts of the center's struggles to offer attractive juvenile programming left the center operating almost entirely as a jail and brought down the number of juveniles officials placed at the facility.
The juvenile center operates its 16-bed secure detention in a Crow Wing County-owned building on the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center campus. Central Minnesota Community Corrections has operated a secure detention center for youth since 1991.
Kafka said his directions for the center have been clear - keep it operating at minimal cost to the counties. That was working when the DOC inspection led to a restriction in number of licensed beds, Kafka said. Now the focus is on loss minimization, he said.
"There is not much profit in housing juveniles," Board Chairman Dewey Tautges said.
This year, Kafka said 140 juveniles have been admitted to the center, with 74 of those from Crow Wing County. However, the same juveniles may have been counted more than once for that total - as in the case of a probation violation. A decision to close the center would affect both law enforcement and the court system, Kafka said.
If Crow Wing County failed to fund the center's request, Kafka said other counties would likely follow suit. The amount he was requesting was within the county's budget, Kafka said.
"It's the money in the future that's not," he said.
Commissioners Paul Thiede and Rosemary Franzen said they were frustrated.
"Frankly, the choices don't look rosy on any of the options that lie before us," Thiede said.
Said Franzen: "I'm just not happy with the whole situation and it needs to be righted before I'm willing to put anymore taxpayer money into this."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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