The Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail soon will be its own fiscal agent, likely paving the way for cost savings in the near future.
The push for the jail to become its own fiscal agent started last year as Albemarle County began looking at the number of agencies for which it acts as the fiscal agent and the the cost associated with doing so.
According to Martin Kumer, superintendent of the jail, Albemarle officials last year were in the process of reviewing the money being spent by both the county and the Jail Board in order to determine if having the county be the fiscal agent was in the best interest of taxpayers.
The transition was based on a few factors, but primarily came down to the efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars.
“The Jail Board then also decided to review the arrangement and determine the most efficient and effective way to move forward for everyone,” Kumer said. “After a lengthy review and a thorough conversation with all stakeholders, it was decided the best use of resources was for the Jail Board to manage its own finances operations.”
ACRJ is not the only entity for which Albemarle County serves as the fiscal agent, according to Lori Allshouse, the county’s assistant CFO for policy and partnerships.
“The term ‘fiscal agent’ refers to the provision of financial services, which can include payroll, procurement, accounting and financial reporting,” Allshouse said. “The financial impact of providing these services and the compensation provided by these entities to the county varies by scale, complexity and the agreement with the entity.”
Per Allshouse, Albemarle County formally serves as the fiscal agent for eight entities: the Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center; Emergency Communication Center; Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau; Darden Towe Park; Albemarle Conservation Easement Authority; Albemarle County Firearms Training Facility; Albemarle Broadband Authority; and ACRJ.
At times, the county also serves as the fiscal agent for pass-through grants, Allhouse said, and the county is currently serving as the fiscal agent for grants received by the Albemarle County Service Authority, the Thomas Jefferson Area Community Criminal Justice Board and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Inc.
ACRJ began transitioning to becoming its own fiscal agent in January following a vote by the Jail Board, Kumer said, and has a goal of complete independence by the start of 2023.
In addition to Albemarle and the city of Charlottesville, the jail serves Nelson County.
Per Kumer, ACRJ will now process all payroll and withholdings for its 161 employees, will manage all of its own financial resources, process all accounts payable and receivable and will handle all procurement and contracts.
Kumer said the jail has hired a full-time procurement specialist who also has other duties in the finance department. Additionally, he said existing jail staff have taken on more duties and received additional training to absorb the expanded workload.
ACRJ staff will remain on the county’s health insurance plan for at least the next fiscal year, though Kumer told the Jail Board that they intend to look at insurance offerings next summer with a goal of switching to their own health benefits plan by the start of 2023.
All costs associated with the implementation phase of the transition will be absorbed using the current budget’s positive variance, which according to jail data, is largely attributable to ACRJ’s low staffing in 2020.
Though Kumer said the jail does expect any significant financial savings in the first year, due to the purchase of accounting software and training, by year two the jail does expect around a $40,000 annual savings to taxpayers.
“By removing [ACRJ] from the county’s fiscal agency duties, the county will be able to focus more attention on their primary customers, which is always a positive outcome,” Kumer said.