The state Senate is expected to confirm $155 million more in funding for public defenders, which will mean Butler County could save about $1.25 million by 2021.
Between Gov. Mike DeWine added $60 million per year to the biennial budget for indigent defense and the House added $35 million in the second year of the spending plan. The senate has preliminarily confirmed the extra cash.
The County Commissioners Association of Ohio made indigent defense funding its top priority this budget season and officials there say if costs remain constant it could mean the whole system will be close to fully funded by July 2020.
“These Senate budget provisions indicate the Senate’s recognition of the need to support the state’s local government partners and, for counties, is an important step in achieving the shared goal of a stronger state-county partnership,” CCAO President Julie Ehemann said.
For 2019, the Butler County Public Defender Commission’s budget was $2.1 million, and the lawyers expected to receive 42 percent reimbursement from the state, about $882,000.
Jack Grove, chairman of the Butler County Public Defenders Commission, said the biggest impact will probably be to county’s general fund, because they have no immediate plans to increase spending.
“I don’t see there being a big change if there is a 100 percent reimbursement,” Grove said. “This is a mandated service. We have a no frills budget, we don’t even have any discretionary money in the budget. We make due. Every year the county commissioners are responsive to our needs and we’re in competition with all the other agencies that have need.”
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