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Summit DD renewal levy on ballot

By Ariel Hakim, West Side Leader
Published Thursday, October 12, 2017

Issue 3 on the Nov. 7 General Election ballot is a request for the renewal of a six-year, 4.5-mill levy for operating expenses for the Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board (Summit DD).

The approval of Issue 3 would not result in any new taxes, said Summit DD Superintendent John Trunk. According to Trunk, the cost per $100,000 in home valuation would remain around $11.50 per month, picking up where the current levy leaves off when it expires at the end of 2018.

Proceeds would total $50 million annually, making up approximately 80 percent of the organization’s funding, Trunk said.

The funding helps 4,700 individuals with developmental disabilities connect with services ranging from infant screenings to residential supports for older adults living independently.

Millage has remained the same since 2007, though the levy actually brings in about $6 million less annually than it did 10 years ago, mostly due to depreciating property values, Trunk noted.

At the same time, client numbers have been increasing by 100 a year, added Billie Jo David, levy campaign coordinator.

Another challenge is the impending loss of revenue when the organization soon no longer will be able to bill Medicaid for services, said David.

Summit DD is continuing to transition out of the role of direct service provider — they’re about two-thirds of the way there, Trunk said. Over the past two years, Summit DD has been connecting people to new service providers, an undertaking involving more than 2,000 adult clients, he added. By the end of 2018, the organization will no longer offer any Medicaid-funded transportation, employment and day program services to adults with disabilities.

The move is a result of a federal mandate requiring DD boards to avoid conflicts of interest by ceasing to offer direct services while also providing case management, according to information on Summit DD’s website.

As such, Trunk said he anticipates taxpayers will want to know: If the organization is no longer offering direct services, why do they still need the levy?

“A key part of that is that the people, the individuals, still need the services,” said Trunk. “The dollar follows the person.”

Of the $50 million annually the renewal levy would bring in, about half would be funneled to the more than 570 providers who deliver residential support, day programs and transportation. That $25 million draws down an additional $60 million in federal Medicaid money for those services, according to David.

The other $25 million per year would be budgeted toward services not eligible for Medicaid, such as early intervention, according to campaign materials.

Summit DD does anticipate reducing its operating budget by $11.4 million by the end of 2019, but organization officials only expect to see a net savings of around $1.2 million once lost Medicaid revenue and increased Medicaid expenses are factored in, Trunk said in a presentation to Summit County Council on the need for the levy.

“The $11.4 million is offset by a reduction of about $5.5 million in lost revenue. When we’re out of the provider service side of things, we can no longer bill Medicaid for services. So our revenue is going to go down,” Trunk said. “Lost revenue plus new costs to us really nets out with a savings — I use [the term ‘savings’] somewhat cautiously — of about $1.2 million to support new people coming into our system and expansion of things that we’re currently providing.”

Summit DD will continue identifying what people need and connecting them to proper supports, offering what amounts to almost a brokering type of resource, added Trunk.

The organization also is responsible for making sure the services provided are up to par, including investigating and directing corrective efforts when things go off track.

“That whole quality piece is critical to our responsibility, and that won’t change,” said Trunk.

Even as the organization has had to stretch levy dollars to serve an expanding client base, Summit DD is known as a leader in the state for the quality and diversity of services offered, noted Trunk.

“We think we have a great history of using public dollars very wisely,” said Trunk.

Without this levy renewal, that reputation would be in jeopardy, he added.

“Failure would be pulling $50 million out of our $65 to $66 million budget,” said Trunk.

Early intervention would be scaled back significantly, if not eliminated, since it’s not required by law, he noted. The organization currently is helping the families of approximately 1,000 children birth to 6 years old who aren’t meeting developmental milestones connect to services that can help them thrive, Trunk said.

Supports to schools for transitioning teens to employment and independent living also would be discontinued, he added.

Plus, Summit DD would no longer support athletes involved in Special Olympics. Locally, that would have an effect on 650 athletes, he said.

“It can’t happen. There’s too much at risk for thousands of people,” he said. “This levy really is critical in making sure over 4,700 people continue to get the services they need. We have a mission to help create opportunities for individuals with disabilities to be contributing, active, involved members of this community. These dollars help us accomplish that.”

Trunk said he’d also like to stress it’s not a new tax.

Since this is an off-year election, it’s important voters get out and cast their ballot on Nov. 7, he added. For those not already registered to vote who’d like to cast ballots in this election, the deadline to register is Oct. 10, he said.

For more information on Issue 3, visit

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

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