Highland County Board of Commissioners President Shane Wilkin said Wednesday the State of Ohio recently cut reimbursement for indigent defense costs by 10 percent – a move he feels is just another example of the state “passing the buck” to counties in order to balance its own budget.
Wilkin said during a commissioners meeting that the state originally offered the county 50 percent reimbursement for the county’s court-appointed defense attorney costs, but that number has recently been reduced to 40 percent.
Wilkin said that despite what the state says, the county rarely saw that much anyway, adding that when he started as a Highland County commissioner, the amount of state reimbursement the county actually received was actually closer to 20 percent.
“The long and short of it is the continual shift of the burden of expenses from the state to the county without any financing,” Wilkin told The Times-Gazette. “This is just another form of it, in my opinion.”
Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley said during the meeting legislation has been introduced that would require the state to provide 50 percent reimbursement for indigent cases and 100 percent for capital cases, but only time will tell if it goes through or not.
Until then, the county continues to foot most of the bill, Wilkin said.
Fawley and Wilkin recalled the trial of Wesley Coonrod, a Greenfield man found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 after his two young sons were killed in a house fire, costing the county more than $100,000 in defense funds.
Also Wednesday, Wilkin reported the Rocky Fork Lake Safety and Improvement Project (RFL-ASAP) is making progress with the help of Development Strategies Group, a Cincinnati consulting firm hired to provide an economic development strategy for the area. Wilkin said the conversation is generally frank regarding the challenges the project faces, and he hopes that honest discussion will lead to positive results.
“There’s not a lot of sugar coating going on,” he said. “Hopefully, the results will start flowing in.”
Commissioner Jeff Duncan announced Wilkin will represent Ohio at an upcoming leadership conference in Washington, D.C. in June.
According to the National Association of Counties’ website, the 14th Annual County Leadership Institute, hosted by NACo and Cambridge Leadership Associates, will be held in Washington, D.C., June 4-8. CLI is a four-day program designed to enhance the capability of county officials to identify and implement innovative solutions to complex challenges facing county government, according to the website.
Duncan also reported Altrusa of Highland County has installed a new Little Free Library at the Highland County YMCA.
Wilkin said he hopes to announce later in the month a new event to take place this year in Highland County. He would not give any more specific information at the time, but said he hopes the event will draw people to Highland County and that there are “very diligent efforts” being made to bring it to fruition.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” he said.
Wilkin said he would have a more complete announcement April 26.
In other business, commissioners also declared the week of April 9-15 National Public Safety Communications Week, passed a motion to continue the county’s insurance contract with CORSA and approved routine financial resolutions.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.