LISBON - The county agency that provides public defender services received an additional 5 percent funding in its 2013 budget, the first such increase in several years.
The increase was included in renewal of the contract between Columbiana County commissioners and the Criminal Defense Co., the non-profit agency created to provide mandatory public defender services to accused criminals who lack the money to hire an attorney.
The CDC will receive $427,500 in 2013 under the one-year contract. The agency was allocated $405,500 this year.
Commissioner Chairman Mike Halleck said he promised CDC Director Fred Naragon they would provide additional funding if any should come available, and the board is now in position to keep that pledge.
The CDC was created by commissioners in 1997 to replace the former county public defender's office, where the staff attorneys were county employees and entitled to employee benefits, such as health insurance and retirement benefits. Under the CDC, the 10 staff attorneys are contract employees employed by the agency and not the county, and therefore receive no county benefits.
Halleck said their decision to take advantage of the law allowing them to create the CDC has saved the county a considerable amount of money over the years.
"Actually, it's not (costing) much more than what we were spending 15 years ago," he said.
Naragon said the CDC works smoothly compared to other county public defenders, judging by comments he has heard at the state public defender association meetings.
The county receives 35 percent reimbursement from the state for every dollar it spends on public defender services.
In another note, commissioners will not be meeting this week. Their next meeting will be 10 a.m. Dec. 31.