By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LEBANON - Warren County Commissioner Pat South acknowledged this week the commission did not know the county was underutilizing millions in federal funding for the poor in recent years.
The dollars weren't used because of conservative spending, staff turnover and complicated funding formulas, South confirmed Tuesday after Warren County United Way board members raised the issue last week.
"The county and United Way are talking about ways to best utilize funding that Warren County hasn't taken advantage of," South said.
She also announced this week that the county is creating the position of social services director to oversee all county agencies that provide those services. The move is an attempt to coordinate services and committees to make sure the county is getting the most for its money, she said.
A county staff member has been picked for the job, but South declined to name the person, saying an announcement may come as early as next week.
"We also are looking at the consolidation of some boards and advisory committees that will allow them to take on additional responsibility in oversight instead of being spread out over so many smaller groups," she added.
In recent letters to commissioners and in a presentation before them Tuesday, United Way board members say the county failed to apply for about $2 million in federal Prevention, Retention and Contingency Development money that could have been used for workforce development and other programs.
The county also didn't utilize $932,086 in 2001 and $722,861 in 2002 in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds, said Jon Bartos, United Way allocations chairman. The county isn't saving taxpayers money if the dollars aren't spent, Bartos noted.
But Commissioner Larry Crisenbery said Warren was smart to turn away some of those dollars because that prevented the county from having to lay off workers in social service programs as did at least two other counties - Butler and Hamilton - after the state cut TANF funds last year.
"We knew that was coming down, so thank God we didn't do it," Crisenbery said.
Bartos on Tuesday also requested $25,709 for a marketing campaign to promote the county's social services. But commissioners delayed a decision until Friday so they could investigate how much state funding was available.
"We are not the only county in the state who has not been spending all of their TANF allocation annually," South said. "Beginning July 1, the new state fiscal year, all counties will be required to spend a minimum of 90 percent of their annual allocation and it's our understanding that if you don't, the ramification is you will lose whatever money you don't use."
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