Can 911 revenues be used for anything other than equipment and salaries?
The simple answer is “yes” – but 911 revenues are restricted. Any 911 revenue generated pursuant to § 12-10-318 [telephone public safety charge] and § 12-10-326 [prepaid wireless public service charge] must be spent only in direct connection with the provision of 911 services.
A.C.A. § 12-10-323 outlines the purposes for which 911 revenues can be spent. They are:
- The engineering, installation, and recurring costs necessary to implement, operate, and maintain a 911 telephone system;
- The costs necessary for forwarding and transfer capabilities of calls from the public safety answering point to dispatch centers or to other 911 public safety answering points;
- Engineering, construction, lease, or purchase costs to lease, purchase, build, remodel, or refurbish a public safety answering point and for necessary emergency and uninterruptible power supplies for the public safety answering point;
- Personnel costs, including salary and benefits, of each position charged with supervision and operation of the public safety answering point and system;
- Purchase, lease, operation, and maintenance of consoles, telephone and communications equipment owned or operated by the political subdivisions and physically located within and for the use of the public safety answering point, and radio or microwave towers and equipment with lines which terminate in the public safety answering point;
- Purchase, lease, operation, and maintenance of computers, data processing equipment, associated equipment, and leased audio or data lines assigned to and operated by the public safety answering point for the purposes of coordinating or forwarding calls, dispatch, or recordkeeping of 911 calls;
- Supplies, equipment, public safety answering point personnel training, vehicles*, and vehicle maintenance, if such items are solely and directly related to and incurred by the political subdivision in mapping, addressing, and readdressing for the operation of the public safety answering point; and
- Training costs and all costs related to training under subchapter 3 of Title 12, Chapter 10 of the Arkansas Code.
*The purchase of vehicles does not authorize a political subdivision to purchase emergency response vehicles, law enforcement vehicles, or other political subdivision vehicles from 911 funds. [§ 12-10-323(a)(3)]
Expenditure of revenue distributed by the Arkansas 911 Board for purposes not identified in law is prohibited and can result in the Arkansas 911 Board withholding funds. [§ 12-10-323(b)(c)]
As in the case of other restricted revenue funds, appropriations of funds from other sources – such as the General Fund – may supplement the authorized expenditures of A.C.A. 12-10-323 and may fund other activities of the public safety answering pointy not associated with the provision of emergency services. [§ A.C.A. 12-10-323(d)]
Is it a requirement of law for a county to fund a county jail operation and what are some of the main sources of revenue for county jail operations?
Arkansas Code Annotated § 12-41-502 says, “The county sheriff of each county in this state shall have the custody, rule, and charge of the jail within his or her county and all prisoners committed in his or her county,…..”. Also, § 14-14-802(a)(2) requires, “A county government, acting through the county quorum court, shall provide, through ordinance, for……..law enforcement protection services and the custody of persons accused or convicted of crimes”. There are other state laws and court case decisions that indicate that a county government should not only have a county jail, but should properly fund the jail operation.
County jail operations are one of the largest financial burdens on county governments in Arkansas – but, there are several revenue sources for the operation of a county jail that can be secured. The two largest and most common revenue sources are a dedicated sales tax (must be approved by a vote of the electorate) and general funds of the county. Other sources of jail revenue include housing fees for housing prisoners of other government jurisdictions, including state prisoners and 309’s and contracts for housing federal prisoners; and pay-for-stay fees.
The sheriff must also allocate a percentage, up to 75%, of the commissions from prisoner telephone services and profits from inmate commissary services for the maintenance and operation of the county jail in accordance with § 12-41-105(b)(2). These revenues are credited to the Sheriff’s Communications Facility and Equipment Fund – but some percentage [up to 75%] must be allocated to jail operations.
Two other sources of revenue for jail operations are the $40 booking and administrations fee and the local fine that can be levied by the quorum court to help defray the cost of incarcerating prisoners.
Let’s take a closer look at those last two sources of jail revenue mentioned and the laws that regulate them –
Booking fee - Act 117 of 2007 amended § 12-41-505 [Expense and support of the jail] to add a booking and administration fee of $20 to anyone convicted of a felony or a Class A misdemeanor. The booking fee was increased to $40 by Act 372 of 2019. The fee is assessed in one of two ways. It is assessed upon the conviction of a person and included in the judgment entered by the court – or if the court suspends imposition of a sentence on the person or places the person on probation and does not enter a judgment of conviction, the court is to impose the booking and administration fee as a cost.
Disposition of the booking fee is addressed in § 12-41-505(b)(3). Ninety percent (90%) of the booking fee is to be used exclusively for the maintenance, operation, and capital expenditures of a county jail or regional detention center or for certificate pay for law enforcement and jailer personnel. The 90% funding should be credited to a fund called the County Detention Facility Fund [Fund #3018] or if the county already has a special revenue fund for jail operations the booking fee may be credited to that fund as one of that fund’s revenue sources. A.C.A. § 12-41-505 simply says that the funds “shall be credited to a special revenue fund and used for the maintenance, operation, capital expenditures of a county jail…..”.
The remaining 10% of the booking fee is to be credited to the County Sheriff’s Office Fund as described in § 12-41-105 and then transferred by check on a monthly basis to the Treasurer of State for the Law Enforcement Training Fund. The check is to be remitted using a uniform remittance form provided by the Treasurer of State.
Local Jail Fine - Act 209 of 2009 amended § 16-17-129 so that a city and/or county could, by ordinance, levy an additional fine not to exceed $20 to be collected from defendants in District Court to be used to defray jail expenses.
A.C.A. § 16-17-129, as amended, reads in part:
(a)(1)(A) In addition to all fines now or as may hereafter be provided by law, the governing body of each town or city in which a district court is located may by ordinance levy and collect an additional fine not to exceed twenty dollars ($20.00) from each defendant upon each conviction, each plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or each bond forfeiture in all cases in the first class of accounting records as described in § 16-17-707.
(b)(1) In addition to all fines now or as may hereafter be provided by law, the quorum court of each county may by ordinance levy an additional fine not to exceed twenty dollars ($20.00) to be collected from each defendant upon each conviction, each plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or each bond forfeiture in all cases in the first and second class of accounting records as described in § 16-17-707. A county ordinance enacted under this subdivision (b)(1) applies to all district courts in the county.
As a result of this amended state law, cities may collect up to $20.00 in fine money on accounting one records, and counties may collect up to $20.00 in fine money on accounting one and two records. Accounting one records are “city cases” and accounting two records are “county cases”. Counties should assess this fine in district court on both city and county cases. However, it can only be assessed by the passage of an ordinance to levy the fine. If both the municipality and the county have an ordinance levying the additional $20.00 fine – the defendant in a municipal case would pay an additional $40 fine dedicated to the uses of this fine as outlined in the law.
The revenue collected by the assessment of this fine can be used for: (1) the construction, maintenance, and operation of the city, county, or regional jail; (2) deferring the costs of incarcerating county prisoners held by a county, a city, or any entity; (3) the transportation and incarceration of city or county prisoners; (4) the purchase and maintenance of equipment for the city, county, or regional jail; and (5) training, salaries, and certificate pay for jailers and deputy sheriff’s. The only exception to these uses is that sums collected from this fine on “city cases” cannot be used for training, salaries or certificate pay for deputy sheriffs.
As an additional note, this additional fine allowed under § 16-17-129 to be used to help defray jail expenses applies also to a seatbelt conviction in accordance with § 27-37-706. However, a seatbelt fine cannot exceed $45.00 - $25.00 for not wearing a seatbelt and the $20.00 assessed under a local ordinance pursuant to § 16-17-129 to help defray the cost of operating a jail.
What sources of revenue are produced by the Sheriff and identify any Special Revenue Funds that are used for the Sheriff’s operation and how the revenue is generated for these “special revenue funds”?
The County Sheriff’s office budget is probably the largest office budget of the county constitutional officers. Although the Sheriff’s office has the ability to generate quite a bit of revenue it will not be enough to cover the cost of running the office in the vast majority of counties.
The County Sheriff may be the county official designated in your county by the quorum court to collect fines [§ 16-13-709 Responsibility for collection]. Of course, many circuit and district court fines remain at the local level and are remitted to the general fund.
The County Sheriff has several “Special Revenue” funds – such as the Communications Facility and Equipment Fund [§ 21-6-307]; the Boating Safety Enforcement Fund or Emergency Rescue Fund [§ 27-101-111]; the Drug Enforcement Fund [§ 14-21-201 through 14-21-203]; the Drug Control Fund [§ 5-64-505]; and possibly others that may have been established by county ordinance.
In addition to the special revenue funds mentioned, there is also a fund called the County Sheriff’s Office Fund as established by § 12-41-105. The county sheriff’s office fund is an agency fund, defined as a fund used to account for funds held by the county treasurer as an agent for a governmental unit until transferred by check or county court order to the county sheriff or other governmental unit for the intended uses of the fund.
Fees to be charged by the County Sheriff are set forth in § 21-6-307. The Sheriff fees are divided 75% to County General and 25% to the Communications Facility and Equipment Fund. The fees listed in § 21-6-307 are the only fees charged by the Sheriff that are subject to the 75% - 25% split.
The 25% amount of sheriff fees pursuant to § 21-6-307(a)(1)-(17) do not have to be remitted to the county treasury – and can be retained by the Sheriff for the Communications Facility and Equipment Fund. In accordance with the law, the Sheriff maintains this money and fund and it is not subject to appropriation by the quorum court [AG Opinion No. 2002-008 and AG Opinion No. 2003-074]. The funds are subject to audit by the Arkansas Legislative Audit Department. All money paid into this fund from the 25% source of sheriff fees are restricted in use for the following: (1) train operations staff; (2) operate, equip, repair, or replace existing communications equipment; (3) purchase additional communications equipment; (4) otherwise improve a communications facility or system for the sheriff’s department; or (5) purchase vehicles, weapons, or other equipment for the sheriff’s department.
However, in many counties the Communication Facility and Equipment Fund is on the books of the County Treasurer. When the Communications Facility and Equipment Fund first became a part of the law in the 1980’s [first called the Sheriff’s Radio and Equipment Repair and Replacement Fund – changed to current name by Act 662 of 1995] the Arkansas Legislative Audit did not believe it was proper county procedure for the Sheriff to maintain control of the fund and suggested that they remit it to the County Treasurer. This audit division suggestion was before Enron and when they made those types of suggestions to county government officials. There were Sheriffs also that thought it was not a good idea for them to maintain this money in their office. Therefore, in several counties – contrary to what the law says – the Communications Facility and Equipment Fund is on the books of the County Treasurer. In such case, the fund is a part of the county treasury and is subject to quorum court appropriation [A.C.A. 14-14-1102(b)(2)(C)(i) and Arkansas Constitution, Article 16, Section 12].
At the discretion of the Sheriff, any funds in the Communications Facility and Equipment Fund not needed by the Sheriff may be transferred to the county general fund.
The 25% cut of Sheriff fees is not the only source of revenue for the Communications Facility and Equipment Fund. The commissions derived from prisoner telephone services provided in the county jail and the profits from inmate commissary services end up in the Communications Facility and Equipment Fund pursuant to § 12-41-105.
Commissions on prisoner telephone services and profits on inmate commissary services must be deposited with the county treasurer on a monthly basis through the monthly financial settlements with the treasurer. The county treasurer credits these funds to the County Sheriff’s Office Fund, an agency fund on the county’s books.
The Treasurer commissions these funds [per AG Opinion No. 2015-147] and remits 100% of the net amount to the Communications Facility and Equipment Fund. If the Communications Fund is on the books of the county the Treasurer transfers the commissions and profits from the County Sheriff’s Office Fund to the Communications Facility and Equipment Fund as an interfund transfer. However, if the Communications Fund is on the books of the Sheriff the Treasurer must issue a “treasurer’s check” to the Sheriff for deposit to the Communications Fund.
Since the County Sheriff’s Office Fund is an agency fund – the movement of this money from the sheriff’s office fund to the Communications Fund, regardless of who holds the fund, does not require an appropriation.
The Sheriff must allocate a percentage of the commissions deposited to the fund for the maintenance and operation of the county jail. A specific percentage is not required but some percentage up to 75% must be allocated for jail operations. [Note: Commissions from prisoner telephone services and profits from commissary services addressed in § 12-41-105 and the provisions of that code do not apply to Benton, Pulaski and Washington counties – the three counties in Arkansas with populations in excess of 175,000.]
Another source of “special revenue” for the County Sheriff comes from boat registration fees. A percentage of those fees are credited to the County Aid Fund and remitted to the County Treasurers in the proportions thereof as between the respective counties that the total of the fees produced from each county bears to the total of the fees produced from all counties. [§ 27-101-111]
Upon receipt of these funds the County Treasurer credits the funds to the Boating Safety and Enforcement Fund – if the Sheriff has established a patrol on the waterways within the county. Otherwise, the funds are credited to the County Emergency Rescue Fund for use exclusively by either the county or the cities within the county, or both, for operating and maintaining emergency rescue services.
If neither the county nor any of the cities within the county operate emergency rescue services the fees should be deposited into the Game Protection Fund for use by the Arkansas State Game and Fish Commission.
Drug Enforcement Fund - A county may provide the Sheriff with another Special Revenue Fund – a Drug Enforcement Fund. For this fund to be established the quorum court must pass an ordinance establishing the fund and set a maximum balance for the fund – not to exceed $50,000 [amended from $10,000 by Act 154 of 2013].
There are restrictions on how the fund can be used. The law allows for these funds to be used only for direct expenses associated with the investigation of the criminal drug laws, including (1) the purchase of evidence; (2) the payment of information; (3) the relocation or security of witnesses, or both; (4) emergency supply purchases; and (5) emergency travel expenses. The funds cannot be used for (1) administrative costs associated with the sheriff’s office; or (2) equipment purchases or leasing, salaries or wages, professional services, training, or any other purpose not directly related to a criminal drug investigation.
After the quorum court has approved an ordinance establishing a Drug Enforcement Fund, set the maximum amount of the fund within the maximum threshold set by state law, and appropriated money for the fund, the county judge may approve a county claim for the initial establishment of the Drug Enforcement Fund on the books of the County Sheriff. If adequate appropriations and funds are available, the Drug Enforcement Fund may be replenished upon presentation and approval of a county claim. The total Drug Enforcement Fund dollars [both bank account and cash funds] must never exceed the maximum established by the quorum court.
Accounting records must be maintained by the sheriff’s office for the receipt, disbursement, accounting, and documentation of funds pursuant to the written procedures established by the Division of Legislative Audit. [As with the Communications Facility and Equipment Fund – this fund is on the books of the Treasurer in some counties rather than on the books of the Sheriff.]
Everything there is to know about the Drug Enforcement Fund is in Act 362 of 1997, amended for the first time by Act 154 of 2013, and codified in A.C.A. §§ 14-21-201 through 14-21-204. No AG Opinions or case law exist on these laws governing the Drug Enforcement Fund.
Drug Control Fund - Another Special Revenue Fund for use by the County Sheriff is the Drug Control Fund. Information concerning the Drug Control Fund is found in the rather extensive “Property Subject to Forfeiture” law which is codified as A.C.A. 5-64-505. Subdivision (i)(2) lays out the creation of the Drug Control Fund on the books of law enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys. The Drug Control Fund moneys come from the disposition of moneys in the Prosecutor’s Asset Forfeiture Fund as outlined in subdivision (i)(1).
Moneys in the Drug Control Fund shall be used only “for law enforcement and prosecutorial purposes” – which is a rather broad definition of what the moneys can be used for. The term “prosecutorial purposes” is not in itself a legal term that is defined. The definition of “prosecutorial” is relating to, or being a prosecutor or prosecution. It would appear then that “drug control funds” could be used generally for law enforcement purposes and for any legitimate expense of the prosecutor or his/her team in the process of conducting the prosecution of a defendant.
There are several Attorney General Opinions dealing with the Drug Control Fund.
In connection with the Drug Control Fund as established under A.C.A. 5-64-505 – at least one other code is worth mentioning. It is:
- A.C.A. 12-17-105 – This code allows the use of Drug Control Funds to meet the local match for a grant to a multi-jurisdictional drug crime task force receiving a grant award from the State Drug Crime Enforcement and Prosecution Grant Fund.