Heading Logo


Drug treatment funding shaky now in Portage County

By MATTHEW MERCHANT Record-Courier reporter Published: May 17, 2017 1:00 AM

RAVENNA -- A proposal by Family & Community Services Inc. to renovate the former Altercare nursing home in Ravenna into a drug treatment facility may fall apart, thanks to a technicality dealing with how county funding moves.

And because of a lack of financial foresight by the Portage County commissioners, there may not be any funding available for the roughly nine other proposals being considered by the sales and use tax subcommittee.

Commissioners also said they realized they may not have enough revenue left over after an expected $13 million expansion and upgrade of the county jail on Infirmary Road is complete, as well as paying for a previously agreed-upon, more than $1 million annual contract for road patrol and additional officers at the sheriff's office.

"We cannot take funds from the general fund, as commissioners, and fund a capital improvement for an outside agency. They have to build it and we can come," said Commissioner Sabrina Christian-Bennett. She, along with Commissioner Maureen Frederick, said the board was recently informed of this by the county prosecutor's office.

That would apply to the funding of renovations at the Altercare facility on New Milford Road. Capital improvement projects can only be funded if the money flows into a county organization.

[Article continues below]

Planned expansion of the county jail on Infirmary Road in Shalersville, however, would be allowed because the sheriff's office is a county organization. Those improvements are being funded out of the expected $25 million revenue from a 0.25 percent sales and use tax imposed by the board in 2015.

County Budget Director Todd Bragg told the subcommittee months ago that $21 million was being held for the jail and existing salaries, leaving roughly $4 million for possible proposals. But the board acknowledged this week that revenue was never meant to be used for hiring or meeting long-term staffing needs, despite already approving staffing.

The commissioners planned to inform the sales and use tax committee this week during a scheduled meeting that, because of the expected lack of funding, the only financially feasible proposal is the jail expansion and continuing existing staffing.

When asked, subcommittee chairman Joel Mowry, who is also the head of the Portage County Mental Health and Recovery Board, said he planned to proceed on schedule with reviewing the proposals until he was informed otherwise.

In addition, the commissioners have yet to finalize funding for staffing the jail expansion, the commissioners said last week. They have tentatively agreed to fund at least five full-time positions at the jail using sales and use tax revenue.

Commissioners, along with Bragg, have agreed to discuss possible future options for the sheriff's office to absorb those costs once the tax ends.

 

Email: mmerchant@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4156


Rate this article

Do you want to leave a comment?   Please Log In or Register to comment.