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Balancing act needed for SCORE jail as Federal Way shoulders higher share of cost
Contract cities and agencies are starting to fill the SCORE jail, a positive development for Federal Way and the other “member” cities responsible for the construction, maintenance and operation of the facility.
In recent years, the member cities had worried they may have bitten off more than they could chew with the construction of the SCORE facility, causing a number of the cities to look for other places to jail people, most notably Auburn.
With these new contracts, the facility is seeing the use that many envisioned, and is lowering costs of member cities. However, this influx of inmates from around the region may come with its own issues if not watched carefully, according to city officials.
Opened in 2011, the SCORE jail serves Federal Way, Auburn, Renton, Tukwila, Seatac, Burien and host city Des Moines.
The total average daily population (ADP), the metric used to figure out who pays what for the facility, has increased substantially from 2012, according to Tho Kraus, the city’s financial director.
“In August 2012, we were at 374. In August 2013, we’re at 476. There’s been a shift, it’s the member cities who are decreasing by 35 ADP, or 10 percent, and that contract cities that have increased by 133 ADP, or 532 percent,” Kraus said at the Sept. 24 meeting of the Finance, Economic Development and Regional Affairs Committee (FEDRAC) meeting.
The two largest contributors to this increase are the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) and the City of Fife, according to data compiled by the city.
The facility’s year-to-date revenues are $2,237,000, with about 48 percent of that coming from the DOC ($954,000) and Fife accounting for $929,000, or approximately 52 percent.
The cities of Covington and Pacific make up the small remainder left over, with Covington providing about $119,000 in revenues and Pacific bringing in about $96,000 in revenues.
In 2014, the facility will cost Federal Way about $3.75 million, with a one-time cost of $1.4 million associated with that year, according to the city. Federal Way is shouldering almost 25 percent of the total load for the facility, according to the city’s projections. While the consensus of the committee and Kraus at the Sept. 24 meeting was that the increase in contract cities’ use was a positive, specifics on whether these developments would affect the budget figures were not discussed. Kraus was unavailable for comment after the meeting.
A financial analysis of the SCORE facility from a couple of years ago indicated that, at least for Federal Way, who at the time was sending the most inmates to SCORE, the facility had the potential to become a financial millstone around the city’s neck.
Mayor Skip Priest said that situation is improving, but, as already noted, the difficulty still lies in finding the balance.
“The good news is, by working with Fife, by working with the Washington State Department of Corrections, we have to some extent created a market in looking to fill the facility,” he said at the FEDRAC meeting. “At the same time, all the board and staff are wrestling with the issue of where exactly that balance is.”