Highland County Commissioner Shane Wilkin said Wednesday that updated budgets from county departments have been received by commissioners, and they will be reviewed wtih a draft of the overall budget provided to Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley within the week.
Wilkin said earlier this week that commissioners attended a conference where they learned that other counties are having the same issues as Highland County with rising costs of children in foster care.
Those rising costs are something that will “have a pretty large effect” on next year’s budget, Wilkin said.
He said he talked to a Ross County commissioner who said Ross has been putting general fund dollars toward the kids-in-care costs for some time.
Fawley said that as of Monday, there were 143 Highland County children in foster care.
As previously reported, a lack of foster homes locally is what drives up the cost of caring for the children. Being able to keep kids closer to home would not only save on costs, but would allow the children in care to remain connected to their family and community.
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent or wanting to explore adoption should call Job and Family Services at 937-393-4278 or 937-393-3111.
Wilkin said he has talked to Katie Adams, the newly appointed deputy director at JFS, about the kids-in-care costs, and she’s “jumping into that pretty hard,” he said.
He said it was important to remember that making this better “is not going to be a quick answer.”
Another consideration on the budget for next year is that 2016 is a presidential election year. With that comes higher expenses for the board of elections, Wilkin said.
Commissioner Tom Horst said there was a discussion at the conference about the higher expenses for board of elections offices not being taken care of by the state.
“That’s a problem,” he said.
In other business, Pete Pence, Grow! Highland County’s enterprise facilitator, updated commissioners on the success of the organization through the year. He also said its efforts to become self-sustaining were going well, but renewed a request made earlier this year to commissioners for financial support.
Greenfield and Leesburg, local banks, and private individuals have committed to multi-year support, Pence said. He’s set to meet with Hillsboro entities soon, he said.
Wilkin said the foster care problem will keep the board from being able to commit to any sort of financial support right now, which Pence said he understood.
Grow!, Pence said, is hosting an open house on Dec. 17 from 5-7 p.m. at Alley 21. A client expo is also being planned for March in Leesburg and will feature clients and their goods, he said.
Pence said a Grow! project he is working on has the potential to bring about 20 new jobs to Hillsboro.
“The three of us appreciate everything that Grow! does,” Wilkin said.
Commissioner Jeff Duncan and Wilkin said they would look into the use of “innovation funds” to see if any financial support for Grow! would be available that way.
“I’d encourage anyone that even has an idea for a business to contact Grow!,” Horst said, adding that existing business, too, with ideas on sustaining and expanding should also contact the organization.
“We do appreciate your efforts and what you do for the county,” Duncan said.
Grow! helps those wanting to start a business, or expand an existing business, by focusing on product, finance, and marketing. Clients are matched up with the organization’s network of people with various backgrounds and skill sets to help them achieve their goals.
For more information on Grow! Highland County go to growhighlandcounty.com, the organization’s Facebook page, call Pence at 937-403-1488, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.