"But everybody seems to forget how much money the jail generates in payments from other counties for holding their prisoners," he said. "This year we should generate $600,000, and I guarantee that we'll take in at least 50 percent of the one million dollars we're in debt."
Last month Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree said one of the primary causes of the deficit in the county's general fund budget was the operation of the county jail.
A few years ago, when the old county jail was located on the top floor of the courthouse, Donini said, it was creating a real drain on the county budget because the smaller jail filled up and he often had to transport Scioto County prisoners - sometimes as many as 60 or 70 of them - to other counties and pay them for housing them.
The new jail, built where the N&W railway depot once stood, has 190 beds, 38 for women and the rest for men. On Monday it housed 50 women and 124 men.
"We had to clean out a dorm normally used for men to house the extra 12 women," he said.
He said before the jail was built he estimated in his budget that it would average holding 20 out-of-county prisoners a day.
"We're averaging 30 a day - higher than my estimate, but lower than the county's estimate (of 50)," he said.
Other counties like Pike and Lawrence pay about $50 a day to the Scioto County lockup to keep their prisoners.
Where the jail loses money, the sheriff said, is in holding prisoners who have been convicted and sentenced, but held in the county jail for several days or up to a week while awaiting their orders to be transported to state prisons.
The jail gets nothing from the state for holding, feeding, and sometimes paying medical bills for those prisoners.
"No, we don't recoup those expenses," Donini said. "I've been here 30 years and I don't know how to do that."
He said his "biggest frustration" comes from waiting on the paperwork needed from the courts to transport those prisoners.
He said there have been times when all 190 beds were full and because of state prisoners waiting to be transferred to prison he has had to turn down revenue-producing out-of-county prisoners.
"I know the county is having money problems," Donini said, "But I don't deal with the county budget - just mine. And I know what we're doing here."
The cost of operating jails seems to take a bite out of the budgets of county governments in other states as well.
In Kentucky, county judge-executives are considering suing the state administration and legislature to force it to pay for housing state prisoners who get credit against their sentences for the time already served in county jails.
Presently, the state pays the counties to house these prisoners just for the time served after sentencing - not for the time they are often held for long periods awaiting trial.
Greenup County Judge-Executive Bobby Carpenter said his jail budget this year is $1.3 million and he expects $745,000 of that to come from the general fund - money that, if the jail were more self sustaining, could go for blacktop, and water and sewer lines in the county.
The Kentucky constitution obligates the state to house state prisoners and KRS 532..120 reads, ..."the time spent in custody prior to the commencement of the sentence shall be considered for all purposes as time served in prison."
The suit is expected to be filed within the next couple of weeks in Franklin Circuit Court.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.