MAHONING COUNTY Juvenile court refunds old fees

Money left over from filing fees should have been returned, but it wasn't.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County Juvenile Court is making good on old debts.
The court has begun mailing refund checks to people who've had cases handled there over the past five or six years. It's money they should have received long ago, said court administrator Eva Burris.
When new cases are filed in the court, the person or group who files it must pay a filing fee, which covers the cost of processing the case, Burris said.
Any money left over when the case is disposed of is supposed to be returned, but that didn't happen. A routine audit by the state auditor's office revealed an account containing between $140,000 and $150,000 in unreturned fees.
Law change: The money accumulated during a five- or six-year period after a change in Ohio law that required juvenile courts to act as their own clerks rather than using the county clerk of courts office, Burris said.
She said the juvenile court did not have a computerized or accounting mechanism to keep track of the money and ensure that it was returned in a timely manner. The money was never used for any other purpose, she said.
"All these years, that money has been just sitting there," Burris said. "I think it was just something that nobody ever thought about or dealt with."
The auditor's office ordered that the money be returned, so court employees have been going over past records to find out who's owed a refund and mailing out checks.
"It's going to take us a while, but we fully intend to return all of that money," Burris said. Most people probably don't even realize they have money coming.
Got a refund: "It shocked me," said David Weidner of East Palestine, who said he recently received a check for about $9.20. He phoned the court to find out what the check was for and make sure it was OK to cash it.
Burris said the court has upgraded its accounting system and now is able to monitor the fees and ensure that money is returned on time.