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Finance Committee designates funds for opioid crisis, reviews possible chargebacks

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A January board meeting at the Township of Eastman involved several residents who had received what they believed to be erroneous property tax bills. Deanne Lutz (left) addressed concerns and followed up with the Crawford County Finance Committee on Feb. 7. (Genevieve Wilson/Submitted photo)

With the Crawford County Board of Supervisors meeting set for Feb. 20, the Finance Committee convened on Feb. 7 to set agenda items for the supervisors. The committee also reviewed settlement funds from several opioid lawsuits, assessor errors in the Township of Eastman and soft costs from the Crawford County Jail Replacement project.

Opioid Funds

Dan McWilliams, Director of the Crawford County Department and Health and Human Services (DHHS), updated the committee on money awarded to the county from a large opioid settlement with manufacturers, distributors and consultant firms involved the disbursement of opioid medications.  McWilliams said the county had received approximately $160,000 thus far and expected to see nearly $800,000 over an 18 year period from companies like Mallinckrodt, Walmart, Walgreens and CVS.

McWilliams reminded the committee that the funds received from the lawsuit had to be utilized to address the county’s Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) crisis and co-occurring Substance Use Disorders (SUD) per the conditions of the settlement.

“In Crawford County, do we have an opioid problem?” Gary Koch, Finance Committee Chair, asked.

“Yes, Fentanyl is in everything,” McWilliams answered. “There’s definitely a use of those drugs. Opioid issues have existed; there are people who were addicted to them, but they’ve become too hard to get and expensive at times.”

While McWilliams stated opioid addiction was the settlement’s primary focus, he also noted most drug users had opioids in their history. And when those medications became to difficult to obtain, many users turned to Methamphetamines.

McWilliams offered two recommendations to the board for the funds, which were segregated into their own account under DHHS. First, to allocate $16,000 per year toward an increase in counseling services available to inmates at the county jail and, second,  set aside $20,000 per year to help finance a drop-in clinic.

For the increase in jail services, McWilliams said the allocation was approved under the conditions of the settlement and would double the service hours a provider would be available to the inmates. He also noted the current provider agency was in the middle of hiring for the position, so the increase in hours could help that hiring process. With the additional money, services would increase from four to eight hours per month.

The drop-in clinic was more difficult, and, according to McWilliams, had to be geared toward addressing people with opioid addiction.

“We just got to make sure opioids are first, and that they can screen for that, they can support that process,” McWilliams said. He stated the $20,000 wouldn’t be enough to fully fund the service, but it would start the process and could encourage the participation of other agencies.

“It’s not a county-run project; we’re going to be saying, ‘here’s some money that would be available for this,’” McWilliams said. Based on the money that had already been received and projected schedule for payments in the future, he said the county could put money toward the project for almost twenty years. The key was to get “buy-in” from community agencies to make it happen.

The committee approved the $16,000 per year allocation to increased jail counseling services and $20,000 per year toward a future  drop-in clinic.

 

Assessment errors

Deanne Lutz, County Treasurer, provided an update on possible land assessment errors in the Township of Eastman. Lutz had previously attended the Town Board meeting on Jan. 11 to address the issue.

Lutz stated there were “possibly” 23 errors and acknowledged there was still confusion around the situation. She noted there were five possible chargebacks, which were properties that were overcharged in their land assessments.

“I was of the understanding that he [the assessor] had assessed at the 2020 rate and that would’ve been less taxes this year and a larger amount of taxes next year,” Koch said.

“That’s the rest of them,” Lutz said. She went on to clarify that the remaining 18 cases she had were omitted taxes that were undercharged on assessment. This caused problems for owners and banks that held mortgages or other money to pay for their property.

“The issue we’re having with these is people have money in their escrow, so those banks are calling because they need to pay a tax bill and a tax bill doesn’t exist.” Escrow accounts, which are commonly used to facilitate real estate transactions, had to be settled by Feb. 15.

For those undercharged, Lutz stated the township might have to accept payments made, fold that money into a trust and then distribute the money correctly next year. For the chargebacks, she said, at some point, the county would likely have to pay their portion back.

Lutz stated the overcharge amount in taxes was $10,925.21 and the undercharged amount was $12,680.28.

A representative from the land assessor for the Township of Eastman, Holloway Appraisal, LLC, stated they were working with the township and had a private meeting with the Town Board. William Schultz, Chair of Eastman’s Town Board, confirmed the meeting in January.

A Town Board meeting was scheduled to take place on Feb. 12 in Eastman.

 

Other business

-County residents with tax delinquent lands had until Feb. 16 to contact the Treasurer’s Office to prevent their names being published in the newspaper. Lutz said Couleecap had funds available to assist people. She confirmed their application process was open until some time in March.

-County employees who are due for an recognition check would be able to appear at the February County Board of Supervisors meeting to receive their check in person.

-Koch stated an open informational session will take place on Feb. 19, 2024 from 4-7 p.m. at the County Administration Building for the public to see work done for the Jail Replacement project. A second session will be held in the same location after the County Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 20.

-The next Finance Committee meeting will be held on Feb. 21.

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