MOUNT VERNON — The Veterans Service Office has a different setup from most county departments that receive money from the general fund. Ohio law protects the funding veterans service organizations receive from counties and can be formally invoked to force funding at required levels. But when VSO Director Kevin Henthorn, Commissioners John Kaiser and George Curry and Financial Coordinator Melissa Wheeler met with the Knox County Commissioners Friday morning they were ready to offer their service to the community.
“We understand the situation,” Henthorn said, referring to the budget crunch the county has suffered as a result of sagging investment values in a recession economy. He said he and his staff were prepared to not take previously scheduled raises in 2010 and to voluntarily cut back expenses, as a result asking for 10 percent less than last year’s appropriation.
“There wasn’t an eyebrow raised on our staff,” Henthorn said, “We want you to have a general understanding of the spirit we are bringing to these discussions.”
Kaiser asked if the county could help the VSO make these cuts by handling some services.
“We would like to go back to the idea of snow removal by the county,” Kaiser said. He also asked if the veterans’ office could get their cleaning supplies from the county, which has been saving on such supplies by having departments gather together for bulk buying.
Commissioner Robert Wise said that it should work well for the county to plow the VSO lot, as the pickup point for the county’s salt supply is near the VSO’s Pittsburgh Avenue location. Stockberger inquired about salting sidewalks, but Curry said the VSO would take care of that themselves.
“You can consider storage of the snowplow out there,” Curry said, “We have ample space.” The commissioners said that they will consider that. Also to be discussed further are time considerations, as the VSO opens earlier than other county offices, sending out vans to pick up clients at 5:30 a.m.
“We’ll pledge to work as closely as possible with you on this,” said Commissioner Allen Stockberger. “But there is potential for friction. We’ll do our best to make that run smoothly.”
Though the year’s numbers are still taking shape, Kaiser estimated that at year’s end, the VSO should have an overage of $20,000 to $40,000 to return to the county, and estimated taking a cut of $58,000 in the 2010 budget. The VSO commissioners felt confident that they could pledge that much at this point without jeopardizing their services. Both sides agreed to leave the numbers there until more definite figures could be nailed down in December.
“Basically, we’re trying to go back to the ’08 budget level,” Curry said. “We don’t want to see any layoffs in the county, but it’s our job to help the veterans.”
All three commissioners expressed their appreciation for the VSO’s positive, problem-solving attitude.