MOUNT VERNON — Probate/Juvenile Judge Jay Nixon faces an approximate shortfall of $250,000 in state funding in Fiscal Year 2024 compared to FY 2023.
The money comes through a Department of Youth Services (DYS) subsidy grant. The grant is one of several the court receives.
“We are trying to shift our budget and use our budget more effectively, but this hit me as a surprise,” Nixon told the county commissioners on Tuesday.
The funding cut stems from the way DYS calculates allocations. The formula takes into account the number of felonies a juvenile court records in relation to the number of days youths spend in DYS institutions.
A youth in the custody of Knox County Job & Family Services was placed in foster care in Cuyahoga County. While there, he committed a felony and had three stays in a DYS institution. The Cuyahoga judge accepted a plea deal and sent the youth back to Nixon since the youth was a Knox County resident.
Under the allocation formula, Cuyahoga County got credit for the felony because it occurred in Cuyahoga County. The placements were charged to Knox County because the youth was returned to Knox County for further disposition.
Nixon said DYS’ aim is to reduce the number of kids in DYS and added that unless youths pose a risk to themselves or others, he does not send them to DYS.
“Up to this year, I have not had a problem with my ratios,” he said. “I didn’t think I had a problem this year until I got notice from Cuyahoga.”
The DYS grant covers the salary of four probation officers. Because of the cut, Nixon asked the commissioners to shift the salaries into the county’s general fund.
“Coshocton, Richland, Licking counties all have shifted salaries out of DYS and into the general fund,” he said.
To make up for the shortfall, the general fund would need to cover $250,000 through June 2024 for salaries plus an additional amount for insurance.
A $60,000 grant the court usually receives in September will offset some of the general fund’s cost.
Commissioner Teresa Bemiller said paying salaries through grant funding has long been a concern of hers. Nixon agreed it was not good practice.
If the employees stay in the general fund and the court again receives the grant, the grant money can offset the cost of programs. An alternative is to absorb the four employees back into the DYS grant.
Nixon said the funding cut caused him to make changes in his process.
“Number one, I’m not going to accept out-of-county dispositions,” he said. “I also informed the county prosecutor that if he’s going to charge a felony, he better be ready to go to trial. I will not plead a felony to misdemeanor, not unless there are extenuating circumstances. If a kid wants to plead, we will go to full adjudication.”