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Maricopa County to lose nearly $6M a year from Mesa jail decision

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PHOENIX — Maricopa County, which is home to the Phoenix area, will lose nearly $6 million a year with Mesa’s decision to send misdemeanor inmates to a privately operated jail.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan Monday to dip into reserve funds to cover the revenue loss when Mesa stops paying the county to transport and house offenders at the Lower Buckeye Jail and other county facilities.

County budget officials projected a $4.2 million loss during the 2017-18 fiscal year, growing to $5.5 million once Mesa fully implements the private-jail operation, the Arizona Republic reported.

Although the sum is small compared with the $2.5 billion county budget, Mesa’s departure as the second-largest user of county detention facilities creates a budget void that could spur a hike in costs for other municipalities using the facilities, potentially driving them away as well.

“We need to work closely with (Maricopa County) Sheriff (Paul) Penzone and make sure we’re looking at every opportunity to be efficient,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Denny Barney said.

“I think we’re still the best-situated jurisdiction to (handle) the misdemeanor intakes. But the city of Mesa decision certainly invites us to consider how we can be more effective and more responsive to (cities’) needs.

“At some point, they (Mesa) may come back. They might find it works great. We don’t know.”

Last month, Mesa City Council voted to enter a three-year contract with CoreCivic — previously known as Corrections Corporation of America — to house misdemeanor offenders.

The city currently sends these offenders to Maricopa County.

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