Commissioners discuss child placement costs

By Kelsey Kimbler -

EATON — According to the Preble County Board of Commissioners, Preble County Children Services is facing a deficit expected to follow them into 2019. Job and Family Services Director Becky Sorrell recently submitted a letter to the commissioners asking for a transfer of $100,000. Money which, according to Commission Clerk Connie Crowell, was not accounted for in the budget.

During a meeting on Monday, July 9, the topic was addressed once again. Crowell was asked to bring additional information in front of the board, so they could see the root of the financial strain. She brought reports from the old and new accounting programs.

“The first report you are going to see is from the old accounting system, it will show how much we spent more, without our carryover. This is just expenditures versus receipts in 2017, without the carryover, we spent $78,780 more then, even counting our new levy,” Crowell said.

“Our next report is on the new accounting system, it shows activities of 2017 and 2018 which indicates [Sorrell] has $126,423 cash balance. Now, when I look back into the budget, it indicates that she has allowed for a $200,000 transfer from general fund. In our budget, we did not budget for that.”

Having not budgeted for that expense, Preble County is already running on a “very tight contingency budget.”

Earlier in the meeting, Commissioner Denise Robertson asked, “At the beginning of this year, we had a very tight contingency budget, how is that doing? We need to keep an eye on that.”

“I’m am probably down to $130,000, maybe,” Crowell answered.

The topic was brought back up later in the meeting. According to the commissioners, Children Services’ deficit seems to stem from the high child placement costs the department has.

“She should be getting some money shortly, right?” Commissioner Chris Day asked.

“In August,” Crowell confirmed. “She indicates a deficit of $27,000 by the end of June and, as you can see, she had $131,000 left at the end of June. At the end of July, she will have a deficit of $116,000. She mentions she will get $16,000 for her reimbursement check in August. The majority of [the financial strain] is that placement costs are higher.”

“Isn’t that something we are supposed to be working on with the courts,” Commissioner Rodney Creech asked.

Crowell responded, “Is that something we need to have a meeting on?”

“The thing that I’ve heard is that we’re super conservative, and other counties aren’t super conservative, but Darke County is spending hardly anything [on placement costs],” Creech said.

“Their numbers compared to ours is a world of difference,” Robertson said. “They just do not take as many kids out of their homes.”

Creech said, “I would love to see what other [counties] are doing, because we are spending way too much money to be conservative.”

“Quite frankly, I think if we need to have a discussion I don’t know if we should start with the courts or [Sorrell] or how we do this,” Commissioner Day said. “I think this may be the appropriate time since we have a new person who will be in the prosecutor’s office. I think, sometimes, we do the family an injustice by taking the child and not trying to work with them to remedy the situation.”

“We just got the replacement levy passed and it is astounding that we’ve went through that,” Crowell said. “We’re back to where we started in a year’s time.”

Creech said, “We have to get this spending under control.”

Crowell added, she will be getting information from the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) on Children Services placement costs from all Ohio counties. She will be providing that information before the commissioners “decide on a plan of action.”

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH