Boll Group Home asking commissioners for help

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2005

Lots of needs, but only a little money.

That is the problem facing, Brett Looney, the director of the Dennis J. Boll Group and Shelter Home, who sent the Lawrence County Commission a letter last week asking for assistance in making ends meet.

Like many government agencies, the money the group home received from the county this year was lean: $449,607 to care for some 400 Lawrence County youth. The budget is so lean in fact, Looney said some line items are running in the red and others probably will be by the end of the year without some help from the commission.

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For instance, the group home's food service line item is running $8,829 short of funds.

"Most of the balance is owed to local businesses in Lawrence County that provide food items to the group home," Looney said in his letter. "We would historically, cover this shortage by transferring monies from the rehab account. Due to the salary shortfall expectations, we are hesitant to transfer any money to food service that would increase the shortage in the salary/ PERS line items."

The group home is projected to run out of money in its salaries line item on its Oct. 7 payroll.

Looney said he could use the balance of his rehab account, $113,000 as of July 28, to cover most of his salaries shortfall. But even with the $113,000 added, the salaries line item will still need $53,146 to make it through the year.

The home is running short of money in other line items as well, Looney said.

In the past, the group home has used money from out-of-county juvenile placements to pay for extras and emergencies the budget could not cover. The home charges $75 per child per day and typically gets two or three placements each month.

But that was several years ago. A lot has changed since then. State funding to the group home was cut five years ago, about the same time the state began cutting funding to counties.

Now, with dwindling county resources, money from such placements are used to help balance the budget.

"This income stream used to be for extras and emergencies," Lawrence County Juvenile/Probate Judge David Payne said. "Now, it's a necessity."

With the anticipated shortfall this year, Looney said in his letter that the facility will need six out-of-county placements per month for the next four months just to cover the projected deficit.

Right now, no out-of-county juveniles are staying at the group home and, as Looney and Payne both pointed out, when and if they receive any such juveniles is beyond their control.

Other counties are facing similar budget crunches and must be careful about spending money.

"We normally have two or three a month but we can't count on this," Looney said. "They come when they come. It is really up to the referring juvenile judges."

Payne said the commission has always been supportive of the group home and he thinks that commissioners will do what they can now that they know the seriousness of the situation.

The letter, Payne said, was to do just that: Let them know how serious the situation at the group home is.

"The group home provides a tremendous service to the community, to law enforcement, to the schools," Payne said. "Without funding, we simply cannot operate."