Highland County commissioners on Wednesday signed a letter of appreciation to State Rep. Shane Wilkin for co-sponsoring a House budget amendment that provides full reimbursement to counties for legal representation of indigent citizens.
According to the letter, the amendment “will provide the funding necessary for the state to fully reimburse the counties for their cost incurred in providing indigent defense.”
Commissioner Terry Britton said at the board’s weekly meeting that much of the financial burden for indigent defense has rested on Highland County rather than the state, with the county footing about 60 percent of the bill and the state 40 percent.
According to Britton, the budget amendment essentially offers 100 percent reimbursement for indigent defense costs, placing the financial burden “back on the state where it belongs.”
The letter, signed by commissioners Jeff Duncan, Gary Abernathy and Britton, says that since 1979, Ohio counties have been carrying an “overwhelming share” of the costs associated with indigent defense, and that the issue “continues to be a major fiscal concern for the counties.”
The letter says budgetary constraints and revenue losses associated with the repeal of a tangible personal property tax, cuts in local government funding and elimination of sales taxes on Medicaid-funded managed care organizations have put counties in “a precarious fiscal situation.”
The situation will continue to deteriorate in 2021, the letter says, due to a change in federal tax law that keeps sales taxes from being applied to business internet access.
To Wilkin, the letter says, “Your commitment to providing full reimbursement to the counties for the costs that they incur to provide indigent defense services is a strong statement of your support that you value and seek to reaffirm the state-county partnership that we rely so heavily upon to serve the needs of the citizens.”
In other business Wednesday:
• Commissioners tabled discussion of a new surety bond for public employees.
• Britton said sewer improvements in the Rocky Fork Lake area are being engineered and the project will hopefully be funded by the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission.
• Duncan said he attended a legislative gathering at the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday night.
• Duncan also said the Hillsboro Swim Club is seeking new membership and “hoping to do some new things.”
• Abernathy said Dash for DD, a “worthy event” for the Highland County Board of DD, will be held Saturday.
• Commissioners also approved a transfer of $22,000 to capital improvement for the Highland County Airport, and signed off on other routine financial resolutions and contracts.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.