Either inmates have increased the volume of calls placed over the past 10 months of the fiscal year, or there are some problems with how money is accounted for at the county. The “discovery” of $57,000 in the sheriff’s office general fund — the proceeds of collect calls inmates at the detention center place to friends and family — is really a good news/bad news scenario.

The good news is that the sheriff’s department will be able to complete a pair of projects that will serve it for years to come. Even in today’s paperless society, storage space is at a premium and the two new units that Brown County Sheriff Bobby Grubbs plans to buy will help fill that need. Covered parking is more than a luxury — it can help prolong the life of vehicles by protecting them from the elements that can damage bodywork and windows.

On the flip side, however, is the fact that amount of money could build up in an account and go unnoticed. County Auditor Nina Cox said she was aware of the account and that money from it has been utilized for part-time staffing. Grubbs said he was aware of the account, just not how much it contained.

Annual audits generally disclose the status of each of an agency’s accounts — the previous balance, current balance, debits and credits, as well as auditor recommendations. Although $57,000 is a relatively minor amount when you consider a multimillion budget such as the county’s, to have that large a pool of unrestricted funds available is something that a manager should be aware of. The current plans are a prudent use of the funds. The money can also be used to supplement a drug-enforcement effort; to purchase a new vehicle; to upgrade equipment… and the list goes on. It could include at least some of the requests the sheriff has made during budget sessions that could not be granted because of revenue limitations. At almost every meeting, commissioners seem to make a point of how closely they must watch every dollar. So every dollar does count when the needs of a growing county like this are being addressed.

In order to make those things happen, though, the manager of that account must know its status — and in this case it appears that information fell through the cracks until recently.

Brownwood Bulletin