The County Jail and County Finances

Monroe County Jail
The Monroe County Jail

    At the June session of the Monroe County Board of Supervisors of 1891 a petition, signed by 227 citizens and taxpayers of the county, praying the submission of a proposition to build a county jail and jailer's residence in Albia at a cost of $12,000, was submitted to the Board for action, in the premises.
    The proposition was voted upon at the general election and carried by a vote of 1,412 in favor of, and 814 against, the measure.
    Accordingly, at the June session of the Board of 1892 that body ordered that the county be bonded in the sum of $25,000, $12,000 of which was to apply to the building of the


jail and jailer's residence, and $13,000 to be applied in liquidation of the county's indebtedness, and to be known as the county bond fund.  These bonds were issued in sums of one thousand dollars each, and bore 5 per cent interest, payable semi annually.  They were to mature in 1902; but the county reserved the right to redeem them before maturity in the following manner: those numbered from 1 to 12 to be paid any time before maturity, and those numbered from 13 to 25, both inclusive, to be paid any time after five years, and before maturity.
    Prior to the $25,000 issue, there were $3,500 of old bonds outstanding, held by Cleveland (Ohio) parties.  These our County Treasurer paid off May 25, 1896.
    In the present year (1896) an additional bond levy of $20,000 was made to meet current indebtedness.
    None of the principal of the $25,000 has been paid, so far; but at present there is on hands in the county treasury the following available funds: county funds, $4,290.46; jail funds, $4,719.87.  This amount can be paid on bonds at any time, towards liquidating the principal and meeting the semi annual interest, which latter becomes due in July.
    The First National Bank of Albia holds all the bonds now outstanding, and took them at a liberal premium.  The late $20,000 issue matures in 1906, but may be paid at any time prior to that date.
    For several years the county tax levy has been placed at the highest limit authorized by law; and yet the county, year after year, has been running behind in its current indebtedness, and if some remedy is not soon interposed, embarrassing results will ensue ere long.  There is but one way to remedy the evil, and that is to require township assessors to assess property at its actual value.  There are grave defects in the present system of levying county taxes, and the County Board ought to exercise closer and more judicious supervision in the matter than it has hitherto shown.
    The consolidated tax levy for 1896 was 15 3-10 mills, and while the county levy was 6 mills - the maximum limit prescribed by law - the entire levy consolidated is not up to the maximum limit.  The county bond tax is also placed at the highest limit.
    The statutes authorize the Board of Supervisors to assess and levy each year on the taxable property of the county, in addition to the levy authorized for other purposes,


a sufficient sum to pay the interest on outstanding bonds accruing before the next annual levy, and any portion of the principal which, at the end of three years, the sum raised shall equal at least 20 per cent of the amount of the bonds issued; at the end of five years, at least 40 per cent of the amount; and at and before the date of maturity of the bonds shall be equal to the whole amount of the principal and interest.  Such money arising from these levies constitutes the bond fund.  This bond fund cannot be used for any other purpose.
    Under the provisions of the code, the Board of Supervisors have the power to levy a tax of 1/2 mill on the dollar to pay off these bonds, if the annual levy is found insufficient, and this provision does not hinder the county from adopting a still higher levy; but the proposition has to be first submitted to the people for approval.
    The county tax of 6 mills can also be increased by special act of the Legislature, but the proposition would also have to be submitted to the people for their approval, and they would vote it down.  There is always a disposition on the part of the people to cry down any proposition to increase taxation, and, on the other hand, they call loudly for "lower taxes, lower taxes"; but in the midst of this popular cry there is a financial skeleton lurking in the county's closet - a "Banquo's ghost," continually rising and pointing with its finger to the accumulating indebtedness of the county.
    The County Board has always used the utmost economy in making appropriations, and the building of the county jail was a wise and economic measure.  Prior to its construction prisoners were taken to jails in adjoining counties, at considerable expense.  For instance, if a prisoner had to be transferred to Chariton, twenty five miles distant, the sheriff was allowed 10 cents per mile milage or $2.50; and 40 cents an hour for services, which made $5 or $6 more; then the prisoner's and officer's transportation should be added, and the amount is considerable.  Monroe County has a splendid and amply secure jail, and it well worth every cent of its cost.