By RORYE O’CONNOR
MT. VERNON — —
Probation reimbursements from the Second Judicial Circuit are three months behind, setting off county alarms.
Jefferson County Treasurer Dan Knox told the Fiscal Committee on Thursday that the county is waiting for about $270,000 in reimbursements for processing the payroll for probation officers of the Second Judicial Circuit.
“The problem we’re running into is this is the limit we had set for the Second Circuit,” he said, adding that a letter was drafted and sent to the Second Judicial Circuit in late March, informing of the county’s decision.
The county with the highest population is slated to take on the responsibility of handling the payroll for the probation circuit, Knox said, but according to the 2010 Census, Franklin County now has the highest population in the circuit.
He said he has spoken with several people from the Second Judicial Circuit, stating his opinion that the Second Judicial Circuit should employ a different strategy that doesn’t require the lead county to front funds and then be reimbursed.
“The First Judicial Circuit, the model they use, no county fronts any money,” he said. “Williamson County handles payroll, but they do not front one red cent.”
Knox said he has made phone calls to see if anyone could help with the late payments, but nothing had come of it as of Thursday evening. One of “the usual suspects” he said he calls is Sen. John O. Jones, but noted Jones’ days as a senator “are numbered.”
“We find ourselves at a crossroads,” he said. “I’m not looking for action right now, because all this transpired too late to get it on the agenda.”
He said he believes the board should think of Jefferson County first, and set aside its concerns for Franklin County.
Board Chairman Robert White asked the committee for its non-official consent to put the matter on Monday night’s full board agenda as an action item.
Knox said every month, he has to call three to four counties each month to remind them to make their reimbursement payments. He said he doesn’t believe it’s Jefferson County’s responsibility to make sure the second circuit is funded.
Board member Robert Knutson said he would like to see it on the full board agenda.
White said Jefferson County has been handling the Second Judicial Circuit probation payroll effectively as a favor since the census showed Franklin County to have the highest population in the circuit, because the county runs a juvenile detention facility.
“We were concerned by putting this on Franklin County that it will put them into great financial straits,” he said. “We extended this opportunity to them, but as we get further behind, we have to set parameters. We have to take care of ourselves first.”
White placed the blame for the situation on the Illinois legislature for failing to balance the state’s budget.
Board member Jeremy Hall asked if turning over the responsibility to Franklin County would result in the firing of any Jefferson County employees.
White said as the Second Judicial Circuit is a regional entity, it would not.