A request for funding to support the Marion Victim Assistance Program will have to wait until Dec. 12 before Marion City Council acts on it.
City council took no action on Ordinance 2022-092 during its meeting on Monday evening. The ordinance would authorize the city to contribute $13,000 to the Marion Victim Assistance Program for fiscal year 2023 to pay for a part-time grant administrator. The Marion County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve $13,000 for the program during their meeting on Oct. 27.
Program director and Victim Advocate Courtney Rittenour is seeking a total of $26,000 to fund the part-time position. She is currently the lone employee in the program, which has funding for two victim advocates.
City Council noted that it's waiting for confirmation from Marion Municipal Court Judge Teresa L. Ballinger about whether the court's special project funds can be used to fund the victim assistance program. Marion Law Director Mark Russell said the judge has sought guidance from the Ohio Supreme Court regarding the issue, but he doesn't anticipate an answer from the state's high court anytime soon.
The ordinance will now go to its third and final reading at the Dec. 12 city council meeting. Councilman Jason Schaber, 3rd Ward, said the funding has already been penciled into the 2023 city budget.
The Marion Victim Assistance Program provides support services for any victims of crime in Marion County, according to Rittenour. The program has served more than 700 local crime victims so far in 2022.
The proposed 2023 budget for the Marion Victim Assistance Program is $154,221.77, according to Rittenour. Personnel costs for the two victim advocates that run the program are projected to total $140,260.89. Funding from secured from five different grant programs will total $144,620.39 of the total expenses in 2023, according to Rittenour.
Russell, Marion Police Chief Jay McDonald, Sheriff Matt Bayles, and Chief Deputy Bill Collins have each expressed hearty support publicly for the Marion Victim Assistance Program.
"This program is invaluable," Bayles said during an interview with the Star in early November. "One of the things that affects law enforcement officers are the victims - the people that we see at crime scenes. (The victim advocates) take the cases from beginning to end once they go to court. They help the victims and not only in court. They come out and help the law enforcement agencies at crime scenes. There's times when the victims don't feel comfortable talking to a police officer or a sheriff's deputy and we'll bring the victim advocates in to help smooth the process out and help with the investigations."
The Marion Victim Assistance Program operates as a division of the Marion County Sheriff's Office. Its office is located at the Marion Police Department, which Rittenour said affords easier and quicker access to the program's clients in Marion Municipal Court, Marion County Family Court, and Marion County Common Pleas Court.
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This article originally appeared on Marion Star: Marion Victim Assistance Program's request for city funding pending