The Department of Juvenile Justice is still dealing with the aftermath of a weekend riot at a juvenile prison. That's just one problem they're dealing with. Just two months into the new budget year, the department is facing the possibility of running out of money by spring.
“We can determine what can be done to prevent this from happening again,” said Wansley Walter from the Secretary Dept. of Juvenile Justice. "Our budget that was allocated by the legislature didn’t really fund us to address anything like this.”
The problem is a recent court ruling that prohibits the department from charging counties for locking up juvenile offenders.
The state is now scrambling to make up a $35 million deficit. There’s another $19 million budget hole after the federal government stopped sharing health care.
“We’re looking for legislature to assist us,” Walter said.
While the department may be broke, the state isn’t. DJJ is asking lawmakers to tap a $2 billion savings account.
The financial issue is expected to be a one year problem.
Walter said, "As we move forward, our budget will be whole, so we don’t encounter these short falls every year.”
Lobbyist Barney Bishop isn’t surprised by the courts decision, but he said DJJ is trying to right any wrongs.
“I think this is a legitimate issue and the secretary is doing the appropriate thing by notifying both the governor and the respected appropriation chairs,” Bishop said.
Although unlikely, it is possible the budget shortfalls could lead to the closure of several juvenile facilities statewide.
DJJ has also been working with the Agency for Health Care Administration to provide cost estimates on the projected shortfalls.