Texas Department of Public Safety announced Friday that beginning September 1, 2017, they will begin charging all law enforcement entities that utilize their testing labs. According to Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom and Sheriff Lewis Tatum this sudden bit of budgeting news creates some issues for a budget that is near completion for the county and, specifically, the Sheriff’s Department. This also creates issues for the City of Sulphur Springs and the Police Department.
According to City Finance Director Peter Karsten, the city is gathering information regarding the amount that will need to be appropriated for the new fees. The county is also seeking funding avenues and bolstering the Sheriff’s budget to assist in providing for the fees.
Judge Newsom and Sheriff Tatum stated that the fees could cost the county department as much as $1,000 per week.
According to the General Appropriate Action passed by the 85th Texas Legislature DPS will need to collect up to $11.5 million in fees for forensic analysis services in order to realize the full budge authorization for DPS crime labs. DPS will begin charging law enforcement agencies for using certain crime laboratory services and has released a fee schedule for particular services. Included in fee charges are: $75 for alcohol analysis, $75 per controlled substance analysis, $150 for a toxicology test, $150 per quantitation sample analyzed, and $550 for DNA Analysis.
The budget for DPS labs is near $75-million per year. The Legislature provided the DPS lab system approximately $63 million for FY 2018-2019, and requires up to an additional $11.5 million to be charged and collected (as stated above), which would make up the balance of the total authorized budget of the $74.5 million for crime laboratory services. Last biennium, the DPS crime lab was appropriated approximately $74.7 million.