ALFRED — A bill to give additional funding to York County Jail and other financially strapped jails moved a step closer to reality on Monday with approval by the Maine House of Representatives.

The House vote follows approval by the Senate for $2.4 million in funding for Maine’s 15 county jails. The measure, LD 1614, requires further action in the House and Senate, which could come at any time.

If it wins final approval, the bill will provide funding for jails that are most financially strapped.

York County Manager Greg Zinser said Monday’s action by the Maine House and earlier approval in the Senate is “qualified good news.”

The York County Jail is projected to have a $700,000 deficit by June 30, brought on in part by more inmates being housed in the facility, lengthier stays for inmates awaiting trial, under-budgeting of overtime costs and apparent unresolved financial difficulties associated with jail consolidation. County officials have long said that the state did not live up to its financial obligations under the consolidated plan initiated in 2008.

“If the funding does come through, it will certainly help us offset the operating deficit for the remainder of this year, but not eliminate it,” said Zinser. “It does not address the issue going forward. While not ideal, it does bring to an end the ‘what if ’ factor in assembling the jail budget for FY17.”

How much money York County Jail would receive under the plan has not been precisely calculated, but court officials have estimated a figure of about $320,000.

Sheriff Bill King has initiated several measures designed to cut costs at the jail, such as asking police chiefs in the region to instruct their officers to issue a summons rather than making an arrest, if possible, to reduce the number of pretrial inmates at the facility.

In March, King told county commissioners that the jail is in financial lockdown, purchasing only items that are required. He said all discretionary training has also been eliminated.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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