More money budgeted to help Butler County veterans

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More money budgeted to help Butler County veterans

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Casey James, right, service officer with the Butler County Veterans Service Commission, meets with a client in the Middletown branch office. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The Butler County Veterans Service Commission passed a $2.4 million budget this week, one that accounts for helping more veterans than ever before.

The biggest item on the budget is $770,000 for veterans assistance, a 10 percent increase over the budget for this year.

The veterans board has made a concerted effort over the past few years to reach more of the estimated 26,000 veterans in Butler County who might need help.

August marked the highest number of veterans — 564 — served by the commission during the past five years. The commission also reports an average monthly increase of 17 percent over a year ago.

Dave Reed, the newest veterans board member, who hasn’t been through the budgeting process before, worried they might not have put enough money in the budget to handle the growing number of veterans seeking services.

“If the advertising does what it’s supposed to do, we get an influx of people coming in, and we’ve got enough money for this many but we’ve got this many coming in,” he said. “I’d rather have a little extra and hope that we get the bodies here for it.”

The commission is funded by a percentage of the general fund millage the legislature carves out to help veterans.

Butler County’s millage brings in about $3.4 million annually but historically the board has budgeted $2 million or less, doling out emergency cash, helping veterans navigate the Veterans Administration system, arranging and paying for transportation to medical appointments and finding local services for everything from legal issues to marriage counseling. The remainder of that money reverts to the county’s general fund.

Commissioner Dave Smith said they can always ask the county commissioners for more of their millage if they run short on cash.

“Can we afford our success is what you’re saying,” Smith said to Reed. “The answer is yes… If we need it it’s there.”

The board also approved a 17 percent increase to their advertising budget, bringing it up to $125,000. Executive Director Caroline Bier said they want to add a digital component to their radio and print ad buys. The board has been advertising for about 18 months, trying to let veterans in the county know they are there to help, for free.

The budget shows an eight percent pay hike for employees — an additional $44,220 — but Bier said that is because they plan to hire a receptionist for the newly reopened Middletown office at a salary of $26,354.

Bier plugged in five percent raises for everyone, but the actual percentages employees receive will be dependent on their performance evaluations.

BY THE NUMBERS

$2.4 million: The total budget approved this week by the Butler County Veterans Service Commission

$770,000: Amount budgeted for veterans assistance, a 10 percent increase over the budget for this year

26,000: Estimated number of veterans in Butler County

564: Number of Butler County veterans served by the commission in August. It marked the highest number served during the past five years.

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