Commission explores ways to pay money

Published 11:10 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2015

With the clock ticking before penalties are levied on the county for not spending federal funds correctly, a partial payment might freeze the fines for a while.

By the first week of September the county has to come up with $380,000 to satisfy a state auditing ruling that money from the department of job and family services was misused.
“According to Terry Porter, (director of the department of job and family services) we are allowed to make some type of a payment,” Lawrence County Commissioner Bill Pratt said.
Commission president Les Boggs wants to explore setting up a payment plan with the state.

“(We) are formulating a letter to send to allow us to make payments without interest on a payment plan,” Boggs said. “I have some things in mind if they say ‘No.” None of us saw this coming.”
Most of the disputed money was reportedly distributed during the startup of the Lawrence County Emergency Medical Services in 2011.

To pay for training the new EMS staff $300,000 came from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), according to then DJFS director Gene Myers.

“Most of those folks were unemployed,” Myers said. “The agency thought they were eligible because they had lost their jobs for training to avert them from coming on public assistance.”

The EMS staff had previously worked for the defunct Southeastern Ohio Emergency Medical Services. Also in dispute is $80,000 in TANF funds that went to the 4-E program of the county’s juvenile court.Again, Myers said TANF funds were justified to prevent children from being taken in DJFS custody.

However, the state DJFS audit said the reasons cited for spending the funds were not justifiable and gave the county 45 days to come up with the money or face penalties.

If the county makes a $50,000 payment now, then it could have a better chance of repaying the rest next year, Pratt said.

“That would get us into the next budget period and see where we are at and go from there,” the commissioner said. “We have just been able to increase a little bit each year, to around a $2 million carryover. That would get something on record before that 45 days is up. It would give us time to make some kind of arrangements.”

Boggs also anticipates a carryover to exceed $2 million going into the 2016 budget.