Franklin County officials continue to be perplexed by funding shortfalls for probation services.
County Board Chairman Randall Crocker voiced concerns during Monday's finance committee meeting, indicating he wants to meet soon with probation officials. Crocker said although the county is responsible for funding the department, the state continues to lag behind in making reimbursement payments.
The county has budgeted $36,000 for the probation department the past two years. As of Oct. 31, probation was over budget by 206 percent. The county budgeted $75,000 for the current budget year, which began Dec. 1.
"The thing that bothers me is because the state has statutes on what the state should pay and they don't pay it. And I think the statutes also say we have to pick up the shortfall. They can create whatever shortfalls they want," Crocker said.
Crocker asked State's Attorney Evan Owens what authority the county has to reign in probation expenses, including possible layoffs.
"You have the authority over some of that. Each officeholder has statuatory obligations that we have to fulfill and the county is obligated to appropriate sufficient money to fund the offices," Owens said. "You do have the power over appropriations."
"Why should you and the sheriff's office suffer because of what they're doing," Crocker countered. "When they become short, they just automatically pass it on to the county."
It was reported there are 33 probation employees, including about seven in Franklin County, for the 12-county Second Judicial Circuit.
"I think we need to communicate with probation if they're wanting us to help make payroll, they need to lay people off," Crocker said. "I think we need to take a little tougher approach."
"I think these are issues that are going on throughout the state," Owens said. "I think every county in the circuit that has a similar problem with their budget. It's all a pro-rated share. It puts the obligation back on the county. They collect a bunch of money for probation services, and I think they used some of that to get through tough times when there wasn't a (state) budget. That's the pot of gold that everyone is looking for, but the judges don't seem to want to cut loose to pay anything more."
Treasurer Keith Jones said he has not received a budget from the probation department. Finance committee chairman Alan Price said he had paperwork indicating probation employees recently received 2 percent salary increases.
Crocker said he, Owens and Price will look into the probation issue further and request a meeting with Probation Director Darla Fitzjerrells for no later than next week.
In a related matter, Jones said the state still owes the county approximately $425,000 from last year's budget for the Juvenile Detention Center. The county received its last payment in October.
Reimbursements for both probation and the detention center come from the administrative office of Illinois Courts.