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County Charged City To Care For Prisoners When County Should Have Paid

The County of El Paso charged the City of El Paso for the care of prisoners at the El Paso County Detention Facility that they should have paid.

The City agreed to be billed by the County for every person who was arrested within the El Paso city limits 25 years ago.

In 2008, the County billed the City $3.6 million, and the City thought that was too high. City staff investigated and found three state attorney generals opinions that mandated counties to pay for the jailing of people who had been arrested on state charges, even if they were taken in within city limits.

Because of that finding, the City has not paid the County since March 2009, and lawyers on both sides have been negotiating what to settle on.

Last week, County Commissioners agreed that the City should only pay for the care of people arrested on municipal charges, not state charges – even if they were arrested within city limits. That’s a loss of millions of dollars to the county. The City Council unanimously voted for the same thing on Tuesday, which means they’ll only pay about $450,000 each year, instead of the more than $3.5 million.

County Commissioner Dan Haggerty said the county expected the city would want to pay less, and recognized the law requires the county to pay more. He said they anticipated the change, and the loss of funds is part of their $10 million budget shortfall.

He said the county is doing everything it can to not raise taxes, including employee furloughs and department budget cutbacks.

Municipal offenses include being arrested for breaking the cell phone ban, drinking at a park, and code enforcement, among other things.

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