Declining inmate medical expenses have helped Livingston Parish government bring its jail costs more in line with revenues, and a recent low bid for pharmaceutical services could help further the trend.

The Parish Council accepted a low bid last week from Contract Pharmacy Services, which will provide medications for inmates at a dispensing fee of $1.90 per prescription, according to bid documents the Council reviewed Nov. 19.

Contract Pharmacy’s proposed dispensing fee, which is billed to the parish on top of the actual cost of acquiring the drug, was 82 cents lower than a competing bid from Diamond Pharmacy Services, according to the bid documents.

Cheryl Smith, medical administrator for the jail, said the two companies were comparable in the services they provide. The only significant difference between their bids was the price.

Contract Pharmacy, the jail’s current provider, lowered its existing fee in the bid for the 2016 contract, Smith said. The company also proposed a dispensing fee of only $1.25 for over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol and multi- and prenatal vitamins.

The four-member committee that reviewed the bids — two members of the parish’s finance personnel and two from the jail’s medical services — “all opted for (Contract Pharmacy) at a cost savings to the parish,” Smith said.

The jail’s medical and dental services costs have declined significantly over the past three years, dropping from $470,000 in 2013 to a projected $238,000 by the end of 2015, according to parish budget documents.

Finance Director Jennifer Meyers said some of that decline is through cost savings Smith has found with service providers, but it also relates to the relative health of the inmate population, which can fluctuate.

The parish’s jail fund — which pays the parish government’s portion of expenses for the jail, not the sheriff’s operational costs — has sunk increasingly into the red since the detention center was built in 2008.

Revenue from a dedicated quarter-cent sales tax has not been sufficient to cover both the bond debt payments from building the facility and the parish’s costs for feeding and caring for the inmates and maintaining the building and grounds.

While sales tax revenue increased following significant retail growth around Juban Crossing, Bass Pro and other areas of the parish’s commercial corridor, cost savings also have been key in bringing the jail fund closer to balancing revenues and expenditures.

Meyers has projected a $180,000 deficit in the jail fund for 2016, down from $500,000 this year.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.