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Juvenile center faces funding shortfall

Jan. 22, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

IRONTON -- A $35,000 increase in funding for the Lawrence County Juvenile Center on Ohio 93 north of Ironton will help, its director says, but likely won't cover the cost of expenses for the center in 2014.

Brett Looney, the juvenile center's director, said the Lawrence County Board of Commissioners appropriated $700,000 this year for operations at the juvenile center. The appropriation is $124,000 less than the juvenile center spent to house juvenile offenders in 2013.

In a Jan. 9 letter to commissioners, Looney said the appropriation represents a 15 percent cut in funding and is not enough to carry the center through 2014.

In response, the board last week set aside an additional $35,000 for the juvenile center.

County Commissioner Bill Pratt said the board initially budgeted $746,000 for the juvenile center in 2013, but dropped the appropriation to $700,000 this year. When the budget commission certified another $51,000 that could be spent this year, the board agreed to set aside $35,000 of that toward the juvenile center, Pratt said.

"There's a real likelihood the current appropriations may not cover expenses (at the juvenile center) for this year," said Juvenile-Probate Judge David Payne. "I appreciate (the $35,000) increase. I hope they'll continue to do it."

The increase was a positive step and a real necessity, Looney said. "It's a move in the right direction. We'll continue to tighten our belts."

The center in the former Rock Hill Middle School building houses up to 25 male and female juvenile offenders, Looney said. The center averages housing between 250 and 300 juveniles per year, he said.

"The main purpose of the juvenile center is to serve Lawrence County youth and the community," Payne said.

The center also has contracts with seven other southeastern Ohio counties to house juvenile offenders, Looney said.

"We hope to increase the number of juveniles from outside Lawrence County this year," he said. That could provide additional funds that could help cover expenses at the center.

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