Casey James, right, service officer with the Butler County Veterans Service Commission, meets with a client in the new Middletown branch office on Breiel Boulevard earlier this year. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Butler County veterans board breaks service record

The service commission helped 508 veterans in May, which surpasses the previous five-year record of 496 reached last November. The number of people helped in May was the 12th largest since the board started keeping records in 2002. The highest number was 598 just after Hurricane Ike hit in 2008.

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“I think we’re onto something big,” Commission President Chuck Weber. “I think each of us all the time we should try to think of another way to reach another veteran. I have already found one-at-a-time is just as good as any mass outreach you make, because if you can get somebody to come in here, odds are they are going to get help.”

The commission is partnering this year with the Warren County veterans board on a large, multimedia advertising effort.

In December the veterans board approved a deal where each county contributes about $50,000 to run ads on 700 WLW talk radio and several Cumulus radio stations. Butler also agreed to buy time on 55WKRC and with the Journal-News for a total buy of $81,834.

RELATED: Veterans commissions partner on ad buy

The commissioners also approved the 2016 annual report that outlines the various outreach activities the office did last year and gives a comprehensive financial look into how tax dollars were spent. The board is responsible for helping the estimated 27,000 veterans living in the county.

While the board is not affiliated with the Veterans Administration — it is an arm of county government — as many mistakenly think, it offers a plethora of services like 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 state legislature carved a portion out of each county’s general fund millage out for veterans and the Butler board has about $3.4 million to spend each year. Their budgets are usually in the $2 million range so the remainder stays in the general fund. According to the annual report, last year the commission only spent about $1.7 million so $303,957 was turned back to the county coffers.

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Commissioner Tom Jeffers said he is proud of the way the board stewards taxpayer dollars.

“We like to stay within our budget and I feel we do an excellent job at that,” Jeffers said, but added he thinks they will be closer to spending their whole budget this year since they reopened and furnished the Middletown office.

The report shows the largest portion of the budget, 49 percent, are direct veteran expenditures, another 45 percent is spent on personnel, four percent went to outreach and advertising and two percent was for office operations.

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