Butler County officials say they are tired of unfunded state mandates, as they deal with another big bill for the new prison law that keeps inmates here at the county’s expense.
The county received a $1.2 million grant from the state to help pay for housing and rehabilitating non-violent felony five offenders, who would previously have gone to prison. Only half the grant, or $619,175, can be spent on housing inmates, and the rest has to be spent on alternatives to incarceration, rehabilitation and other programs.
With a $229,464 appropriation approved by the commissioners this week, nearly all the state jail funding — $396,792 has been spent since the law’s inception last summer — is gone. State officials have said they won’t know about future funding until the new biennial budget is approved.
Commissioner Don Dixon said Gov. Mike DeWine asked him during the campaign what Butler County needed from him if he was elected.
“He said, ‘What do you guys need?,’” Dixon recalled. “I said we just need them to leave us alone. Don’t send these unfunded mandates down and these requirements and then wonder why everyone is having a hard time balancing the budget.”
The common pleas courts have not had to use any of the grant funds — the sheriff has borne the brunt of complying with the law — because they already had programs in place to help criminals take a new path, like drug, alcohol and mental health treatment, corrective thinking programs and other ways to “target and change what makes the people criminals.”
Nonetheless, Court Administrator Wayne Gilkison said they knew when the edict came down from the state the county would take a hit. Early estimates were the program could cost almost $4 million annually.
“It’s not surprising to me at all that they (the sheriff’s office) are quickly running out of money,” he said.
Commissioner T.C. Rogers said he hopes DeWine will stay true to promises made during his campaign to help the local governments that have taken big hits in funding during the previous administration.
“It’s no surprise, it was another one of those unfunded mandates,” Rogers said. “We’ve had several.”
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