State News
6:33 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

DOC Hopes To Get Prison Budget Deficit Of $95M Down To Zero By June

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The Florida Department of Corrections is aiming to further reduce its budget deficit of $95 million with the help of Governor Rick Scott. But, Scott’s recommendation won’t be enough to cover the department’s entire budget hole. So, the department has started looking at cost saving measures in hopes of reaching one of its main goals.

“What we want to do is when we get to June 30th, our goal is to be at zero,” said Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews.

In his budget recommendation, Governor Rick Scott asked the Legislature to cover about $75 million of the department’s deficit, leaving the department responsible for covering the rest.

And, Crews says they’ll likely achieve that goal.

“The good news for us is that we’re already seeing some reductions. If you look back a month ago where this deficit number it was that we had over a course of a month, it dropped about 9 million dollars. Two months ago, it was at $104 million. Today, it’s at 95,” said Crews.

But, Mark Tallent, the department’s Director of Budget and Finance, says there’s still work to do, and officials are looking at further cost saving measures by re-evaluating existing contracts with other vendors.

“We have renegotiated and eliminated contracts. One example would be the in-house pest control. We canceled our pest control contracts. We’ve trained a staff member at each of our facilities to conduct the pest control. And, we generate savings because we don’t have to provide security support for the outside vendor walking through the facilities,” said Tallent.

Tallent says they’ve also looked at saving money on everything from bathroom supplies to shoes inmates wear.

“And, we’ve re-procured products, toilet paper, paper towels, and bar soap. And, we’ve also changed the style of shoe. We call it a “bobo,” which is a canvass style shoe. We now go to a generic Croc, which has a longer life span, and we do get it at a reduced price. These efforts have saved close to a million dollars the fiscal year,” remarked Tallent.

Crews and Tallent gave that update to lawmakers Wednesday during the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. They also told lawmakers health care privatization in South Florida prisons should be completed by next month—which is expected to save the department money as well.

The department is trying to privatize all of the state’s prison health care services, which prison officials say could save the department millions more. But, that issue is currently tied up in the courts.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.