A total of $38.17 million was approved by the Highland County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday for the 2016 county budget. That total includes a $10 million general fund budget.
The total is slightly higher than last year’s $37.36 million overall budget, which included a $9.5 million general fund budget.
In recent weeks county offices have submitted their budgets for review and a draft of the overall budget was submitted to Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley within the last week. Commissioners said that none of the county offices submitted a budget “out of line.”
“It makes it much easier when you’re facing the issues we face to have department heads … that understand” those issues and budget accordingly, commissioner Shane Wilkin said.
One of those issues is the matter of the costs of foster children being housed out of the county due to the number of children in foster care, which was reported last week as 143 children, and a lack of foster homes in the county.
In recent weeks, the board has had to funnel county money into meeting those costs. On Wednesday it approved a resolution for more at $55,000. But, as a way to offset that next year, a special line item was approved for an addition to the county’s budget, called Child Emergency, so that money could be transferred to it as needed, Wilkin said.
He said commissioners are working with Job and Family Services Director Debbie Robbins and deputy director Katie Adams on cutting costs. Additionally, Wilkin said they are looking into the process of raising the foster care per diem.
Commissioners said that even though raising the per diem to local foster homes would cost the county more, the cost would still be less than having to house the foster children out of the county in network homes, some of which are as far away as northern Ohio.
As previously reported, children in care can cost anywhere from $50 to nearly $395 per day, per child depending on the needs of the child and where the child is placed.
Commissioner Tom Horst said case worker visits to the children placed farther away are another factor in that cost.
Fawley said JFS has “put together a plan” to recruit foster parents in Highland County and that the office is “looking into” expanding kinship care as well. This outreach, he said, is being funded by a grant.
Commissioner Jeff Duncan said that grant is also being used to “try to streamline the process” of foster home approval, which he said currently takes about 45 days.
Duncan also said that with the coverage by the media lately keeping the word out that foster homes are needed, he has had “a lot of people ask how they can get involved.”
He said it was “some positives coming out of the negative.”
Those interested in becoming foster parents can call 937-393-3111, ext. 5055, to contact foster coordinator Jodi Kidder.
In other business, Duncan said Highland County Engineer Dean Otworth is not favorable to the closure of North Beach Road, just past Holiday Way, at Rocky Fork Lake.
But, he said, the road is on ODNR property, so the state agency can proceed with the closure if it wishes to do so. ODNR doesn’t need the county’s “blessing,” he said.
Commissioners previously received a letter of opposition to the closure from the Paint Township trustees and have recently received another letter reiterating that opposition, this time adding that “irate residents” brought their concerns to the trustees at their last meeting.
The letter requests that trustees be involved in any meetings regarding the matter.
Wilkin said Wednesday that he anticipates the proposed closure will be an “ongoing” discussion for a while, and that ODNR would likely rather work with the township than not.
The proposal was initially made last month by ODNR officer Adam Somerville, who said that restricting entry to the area to just one entrance/exit point was a measure to control crime. The only entrance to North Beach by vehicle would then be an ODNR road off of North Shore Drive.
As previously reported, Somerville said the North Beach area was the worst for crime. He said ODNR is hopeful that the closure would allow for better patrolling of the area by park rangers.
On another matter, Wilkin said that Corvac Composites, along with OhioMeansJobs, is hosting a job fair on Dec. 17 from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Dec. 18 from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Greenfield Area Christian Center, 912 N. Fifth St., Greenfield.
As previously reported, the auto industry supplier is looking to fill multiple positions for rotary machine operators, trim cell operators, general assembly, quality technician, and maintenance technician with starting wages at $10-$11 per hour.
Those planning to attend should bring a resume if possible.
For more information about the open positions, stop in at OhioMeansJobs Highland County, 1575 N. High St. in Hillsboro, call 937-393-1933, go to ohiomeansjobs.com and search hiring events, or go to the OhioMeansJobs Highland County Facebook page.
Horst reported that he and Duncan attended a meeting at the South Central Ohio Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Chillicothe. Highland County’s cost for 2015 will be around $178,000, Horst and Duncan said, though the cost for December has not yet been determined. The county initially budgeted $175,000 for the expense, they said.
Highland County, along with Ross, Fayette, Jackson, Vinton and Pike counties, contracts with the facility. The county’s fee, Horst said, is based on population and bed usage, but counties that contract with the facility can rent bed space to non-contract counties, which helps offset the costs.
The two commissioners also said a $3,500 grant has been secured through the county’s solid waste district to help Clay Township clean up a mess of tires.
According to commissioners, the property owner is incarcerated and the accumulation of tires has become a public nuisance. It was previously estimated that there were about 1,000 different kinds of tires on the property.
The township trustees have been working with the Highland County Prosecutor’s Office and commissioners about how to address the issue properly.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.