During their first meeting of the new year, the Marshall County Commissioners approved the 2024 Sheriff’s Contract with Matt Hassel. The contract is exactly the same as last year with the exception of a raise. Sheriff Hassel will be paid $99,744.84 for his salary this year.
The commissioners also approved the CASA (court-appointed special advocate) grant application. The state has awarded Marshall County $4,000 and the local match is $3,800. The issue is the budget for CASA is $62,000 so the state grant is nowhere close to covering the expenses.
Six months ago, Judge Curt Palmer warned the County Council that the CASA program was in trouble because the state wasn’t going to offer as much funding. During that meeting, the judge told the council that state grant funds have been all over the place, $13,244 in 2018; $32,215 in 2020, and $16,292 in 2022. In 2023 Marshall County received $14,122 but next year the grant funding will be dramatically lower at $4,327. Judge Palmer said they have been using banked funds the county had on hand, but those funds will run out next year. The judge said the county match for the grant is 80% or $3,678 bringing the total revenue up to $8,005 while the program expenses will be $55,000. Palmer told the council he would need support in the amount of $44,000 for the 2024 budget.
During the budgeting process, the County Council didn’t budget any funds for the CASA program, not even the grant matching funds.
In June, Judge Palmer said the huge reduction came from the reduced number of children receiving services. The average annual number of children receiving services in Marshall County has been 45 but last year that number dropped to 17. The drop in part was because the Marshall County Drug Task Force has not been active since most departments are having issues keeping a full staff of officers. Many of the children in foster care were from families where the parents were arrested for drug usage.
During the January 2nd meeting Chastity Keller, the CASA Director for the last 7 years appeared before the commissioners to answer questions.
She said Marshall County is fortunate to have a Guardian-ad-litem for every child receiving services. The CASA volunteers are used for more complicated cases.
The commissioners are supportive of the CASA program and will seek grant-match funds from the County Council. They also want to meet with Judge Palmer, Keller, and the council to discuss future funding for the CASA program.