MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday to “applaud and thank” Gov. Mike DeWine and the state House of Representatives for millions of dollars in additional support for the Indigent Defense Reimbursement system, which is used to pay public defender costs.
The trouble with the system of reimbursement to counties is that it “has only averaged 35 percent (of public defense legal representation costs) from SFY (State Fiscal Year) 2007 to SFY 2016, leaving counties to collectively spend tens of millions in county general revenue funds to fulfill this state mandate,” according to the resolution.
Commissioners said they applaud DeWine for providing an additional $60 million each fiscal year of his introduced state budget for indigent defense costs. The state House of Representatives has provided an additional $35 million in state Fiscal Year 2021 budgeting, which would completely cover Ohio counties’ reimbursement costs, Bemiller said. But it must first pass through the state Senate and be approved by the governor.
County Administrator Jason Booth said presently, and over the past few years, Knox County has received an Indigent Defense Reimbursement of 40 to 42 percent. Last year, the county spent about $474,000 for its public defender budget plus another $90,000 in assigned conflict counsel. Conflict counsel involves more than one defendant in a criminal case, where the public defender can only represent one client — leaving the need to hire outside counsel to represent the other defendant or defendants.
Savings the Knox County budget would benefit from, if the state Senate passes full Indigent Defense Reimbursement, would help offset losses that Knox and other Ohio counties have withstood in recent years as a result of state budget action, commissioners said. Their resolution states “Ohio counties have experienced a collective $351 million annual revenue loss due to reduction in the Local Government Fund, Medicaid Managed Care sales tax elimination, and tangible personal property tax,” the resolution states.
Another “hit” to county budgets is apparently on the way as well. The resolution also states “Ohio counties are anticipating a $50 million collective sales tax revenue loss by State Fiscal Year 2021 due to the implementation of the prescription eyewear sales tax exemption, and expiration of Ohio’s grandfather clause to the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998.”
In other action Tuesday, commissioners opened bids — with just one bid received — for the 2019 Annual Resurfacing for Knox County roads, under the direction of Knox County Engineer Cameron Keaton. The road resurfacings involve chip and seal.
The lone bid, from Smalls Asphalt Paving, Inc., of Gambier, was $607,114. The project was estimated to cost $648,000, Keaton said. Pending bid approval, streets to receive chip and seal surfacing this summer include Snively Road, Gilchrist Road, Howard-Danville Road, and others. The county provides chip-and-seal for about 30 miles of road, Keaton said.