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Summit County voters will find Issue 3 on the Nov. 7 ballot, a proposed renewal levy for the county Developmental Disabilities Board. This is an easy choice. The levy generates essential dollars to help in taking care of 4,700 of the county’s most vulnerable residents, adults and children. The high quality of that care has made the board something of a model for its peer agencies across the state.
We recommend a vote for Issue 3 on the Nov. 7 ballot.
As the campaign stresses, the levy is not a tax increase. Voter approval would renew the 4.25-mill property tax established in 2005 and supported again by voters six years ago. This six-year levy would continue to cost $11.50 per month for houses valued at $100,000, generating $50 million annually overall.
That $50 million is roughly $5.3 million less than the levy raised in 2007, reflecting the decline in property values due largely to the severe recession. Voter approval would mean that the board would go nearly two decades without seeking a property tax increase.
That points to solid management, especially in view of the agency supporting an additional 1,600 people the past decade, the annual increase in clients typically around 2 percent. Those management skills have been tested of late as the board has navigated changes mandated by the federal government. Federal officials issued new rules that prevent boards from providing direct services, seeing a conflict with the role of boards in coordinating and funding services.
Thus, the county board has embarked on moving all services to private providers, a task it plans to complete by the end of next year. The change affects 40 percent of clients, the remainder already served by private providers.
Worth emphasis is that the change will not diminish services. Federal and local money will continue to flow through the board to reimburse providers. The board will take on greater responsibilities in coordinating and monitoring the quality of services and care, involving some rearranging of staff members.
Of the $50 million a year raised by the levy, half goes to the Medicaid match, the local share 40 percent, federal money covering the remainder for such items as residential living, day programs and transportation. The other half of the local money supports services that Medicaid does not cover.
In many ways, these are the services that distinguish Summit County in its care for developmentally disabled adults and children. For instance, the board funds early intervention to age 6. It works with schools to prepare for employment opportunities. It supports housing for independent living in neighborhoods, its clients paying the rent and similar expenses, the board funding the staff who help.
Local money supports Special Olympics athletes. It provides for the investigative capacity to protect better the safety of clients.
This is the direction the local board seeks to maintain, those with developmental disabilities having the opportunity live as fully as possible. That won’t happen without voter support of the renewal levy. Actually, it’s worse. Levy dollars account for 80 percent of the local board budget.
The board does intend to supplement spending by drawing on its reserves the next six years. Yet failure to pass the renewal levy would result in the evisceration of programs and services for many families across the county. The need and value are clear. Vote for Issue 3.
This article has been reproduced for educational purposes only and appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal. The original story can be found at: https://www.ohio.com/akron/editorial/editorials/beacon-journal-editorial-board-for-summit-issue-3
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