County commissioners cover children’s justice center shortfall

The Canadian County commissioners on Monday transferred $150,000 from a reserve account to keep the Gary E. Miller Children’s Justice Center within budget.
They took the action because monthly collections are down for the .35 percent dedicated sales tax that is the center’s primary funding source.
The dip was in sales for the last 15 days of November and the first 15 days of December, which includes Black Friday.
The county received the money this month.
The commissioners said they don’t know if the drop is an anomaly or reflects a trend.
What’s puzzling is that the county received almost double this year’s amount for the same time period last year.
The 2019 amount received in January was $865,625 and this January’s amount was $448,628.
This is a low mark since the center began tracking month-to-month tax revenue in 2012.
Even odder is that the amount received in December was on par with trends, at $618,740.
Collections in the preceding five months were between $677,664 and $744,463.
Commissioner David Anderson said the latest tax revenue was troubling.
“The sky isn’t falling, but it’s not a good sign,” he said.
Fortunately, the county has $7 million in reserve from the sales tax that goes to the Children’s Justice Center.
It’s accumulated that amount over the years by putting any excess sales tax beyond the center’s budget into savings, Anderson said.
The budget for the center for the current fiscal year is $9.1 million, which includes nearly $900,000 in contracts with the state and other agencies.
The children’s justice center serves youths from ones who need temporary counseling to those who have committed serious crimes.
The center’s programs include:
A 28-bed detention center
A 12-bed adolescent substance-abuse treatment center
Outpatient mental health and substance abuse counseling
The center also operates an alternative high school program.
The program, which is available to students from throughout the county, is operated by El Reno Public Schools.
In addition, the center conducts drug screenings at the request of parents.
A $3.9 million addition to the children’s justice center, funded by the sales tax, is under construction.
In December, the commissioners decided to devote part of space on a temporary basis for the planned family justice center.
The family justice center will provide a one-stop location for victims of domestic abuse.
Meanwhile, Associate District Judge Bob Hughey, who oversees the children’s justice center, has not selected a replacement for Daniel Kern, who he fired as the center’s director in November.
Last week, members of the citizens’ ddvisory board for the children’s justice center reviewed applications and made their recommendations for who should be interviewed, Hughey said. Interviews are now being scheduled.
Hughey fired Kern after an investigation of complaints of sexual harassment.
Hughey did not state the exact reason for the firing.
“Every employment decision I make is done in the best interest of the Children’s Justice Center,” he said.

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