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Editorial: Vote ‘For’ Issue 4 to retain vital help

By Editorial Board, Columbus Dispatch
Published Thursday, October 12, 2017

Great places to live, including Franklin County, are defined not just by good jobs and attractive housing and fashionable neighborhoods. They also are recognizable by the quality of life they provide for their most-vulnerable residents.

The Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities provides exceptional support for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Voters should preserve this by voting For Issue 4, to maintain the board’s essential funding.

The proposed 10-year, 3.5-mill property-tax levy would be a renewal of an expiring levy, meaning it won’t increase anyone’s tax bill. Property owners will continue to pay about $9 per month for every $100,000 in property valuation. The levy currently provides about $95 million of the agency’s $252 million annual budget. The rest comes from federal and state funds and a separate, permanent property-tax levy.

Even as taxpayers’ contribution would remain flat for another decade, the agency’s work continues to evolve, improve and expand. The number of clients grows by 3 percent to 5 percent each year.

That growth comes at both ends of an age spectrum. Many of the agency’s longest-term clients — it was established by state law in 1967 — have parents who are now in their 70s and 80s and need more helping caring for them.

On the other end, better understanding of developmental disabilities means doctors are better able to spot issues and refer children for help at ever-younger ages. That’s a wonderful development, because critical brain development happens in the first few years of life, and earlier intervention gives children a better chance at living productive and satisfying lives. But it means the DD Board’s services are more important than ever.

Those services include school programs where preschoolers with disabilities can learn alongside typically developing peers and aides who help intellectually disabled adults live on their own. They include helping young people train for jobs, either in sheltered workshops or in competitive workplaces, as well as programs like Special Olympics and social activities for adults.

As of Jan. 1, 2019, the agency’s employee count will change because ARC Industries, the DD Board program that provides job training, sheltered workshops, transportation and other services to adults, will be spun off into an independent nonprofit agency, to comply with a federal rule change.

As many as 400 employees will leave the board’s direct employment, but that doesn’t mean less in the way of services. The DD Board still will pay for their work, through a contract with the newly independent ARC.

Franklin County families are well-served by the DD Board. The agency has received the highest possible ratings from state agencies that assess the quality of DD services: a 5-star rating from the state Department of Education for early-intervention services; a five-year accreditation for overall services from the Department of Developmental Disabilities; and a three-year accreditation for adult employment and rehabilitation services from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

The life-enriching services provided by the DD Board enrich the entire community, and they’re a bargain. Voters should sustain them by voting For Issue 4.

This article has been reproduced for educational purposes only and appeared in the Columbus Dispatch. The original story can be found at:

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