MOUNT VERNON — After conferring with veterans service offices and commissioners in other counties, the Knox County VSO has submitted a budget request for the full millage it can request.
VSO director Kevin Henthorn met with the Knox County Commissioners on Monday to explain the request, which came after budget preliminary meetings wherein VSO commissioners and Henthorn agreed to make voluntary cuts, in line with other county governmental agencies receiving money from the general fund.
“I hope you understand where we’re coming from,” Henthorn said as he explained the thinking behind the unexpected request.
Henthorn said other offices and officials in several counties have advised them it would set a dangerous precedent to request less than they are legally allowed under the Ohio Revised Code, which is 0.5-mill of the total real estate valuation of the county. The amount is $580,434.63.
Henthorn said the concern of many VSO agencies is that counties could use lower requests as an argument for keeping lower rates in future budgets. Henthorn decided to take the advice, while maintaining to the commissioners that the spirit of helping is still in place. He said that even if the full requested amounts are appropriated, the VSO does not expect to encumber the full amounts. Henthorn believes the VSO can provide savings to the county this way, without slashing its budget.
“There are things we wanted to do that we’ve decided not to do,” Henthorn said, noting that a number of equipment purchases would be indefinitely postponed to bring the budget down, and the entire staff, commissioners and drivers will be operating under a voluntary pay freeze.
Henthorn cited the nearly $39,000 the VSO turned back in to the county at the end of the year. This was more than expected, and will be more than enough to cover January’s payroll. Commissioner Allen Stockberger said the commissioners would not issue final budget appropriations until Jan. 21.
In other business, the commissioners discussed with county maintenance supervisor John Alberts whether it will be possible to plow all of the county lots in various locations by the time those offices start to work. Alberts said that at this point, he was having trouble getting himself, his staff and their limited equipment everywhere they were supposed to be, in the allotted time allowed, without going into overtime.
Matthew Kurtz, interim director of Knox County Job & Family Services, stopped by to inform the commissioners that a state appeals court has ruled in favor of Gov. Ted Strickland’s plan to use $46 million in tobacco prevention funds for other statewide programs, which could result in rescinding some of the cuts JFS has lately endured.
“I don’t expect to see it impacting this financial year,” Kurtz said, noting that opponents to the governor’s plan are expected to appeal the case to the Ohio Supreme Court, in all likelihood delaying any resolution until the next financial year.