MADISON - A pair of state senators wants to audit the costs of housing sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences.
It's a story FOX 11 On Special Assignment first brought you last week.
The state spends more than a half million dollars a year to house sex offenders in your neighborhood.
Now some lawmakers are trying to bring those costs down.
The state pays $2,500 a month to rent one home in Green Bay. Another home also in Green Bay the state pays $1,800 a month. Roughly 3 to 4 times the going rate for similar sized homes in the city. And the tenants are registered sex offenders.
"What I'm trying to do is find a solution to this gross misuse of taxpayers' money," said State Senator Mike Ellis, R-Neenah.
Just last week in a FOX 11 On Special Assignment report, Mark Leland brought the issue to the attention of Ellis who is also the Senate President.
"Your TV station deserves a pat on the back for digging this up. We weren't aware of it and we were all startled when we found out about it," he said.
Now he's looking for an explanation from the State Department of Health Services. The agency that pays the rent on behalf of the state.
"We're paying somebody an enormous rent for a house they may have bought for $40,000 and they are making $40,000 to $50,000 in rent is unacceptable to me and to taxpayers."
State Senator Rob Cowles, R-Allouez, is co-chair of the Joint Audit Committee. The committee will vote next week to ask the Legislative Audit Bureau to look at DHS spending to house sex offenders. He too says a closer look at the practice of renting homes is needed.
"My goal is to save money with this audit and if we can find a better way to house these individuals that are sex offenders and save some money right away, I'm not necessarily interested in waiting for the final product, I'm interested in the solution.”
Ellis says the goal of the audit is to find the best solution for taxpayers and they say their willing to use legislation to do it.
"If we do need to redress this problem through legislation we have plenty of time to do it and it will be at the top of our plate."
Both senators met with the head of the audit bureau Wednesday morning. Cowles says his committee will ask for the audit to focus on DHS spending for sex offenders.
"It sure looks on the surface, like there are ways to tighten this up."
The state is currently paying rent on 28 homes for sex offenders on supervision. It costs taxpayers almost $46,000 a month. We asked DHS to explain why the state is paying far more than the going rate for rent.
"It's the balancing act between the cost that we pay for location versus public safety and that is compounded by a timeline," said DHS Deputy Secretary Kevin Moore.
Moore says right now the agency feels renting is the best option available.
"Have we looked at other things, yes we have and we continue to look at innovative ways to do it. But at the end of the day the flexibility right now allows us to meet the individual needs of the patient and then work that into the individual needs of the community as well."
Still, Ellis says he still believes there is a better solution for taxpayers and he's eager to hear what the Legislative Audit Bureau has to say.
"We're asking the audit bureau to give us, not only data and facts, but options so we can address this tremendous waste of taxpayer money."
The audit could take up to two months.
The audit bureau will then present its findings to the committee and senators for review.
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