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Ballot Issue 3 asks for levy renewal, not increase, for county developmental disabilities board

By Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal
Published Friday, November 3, 2017

Voters are being asked to renew a levy that will provide about $50 million annually to the Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board.

The Issue 3 proposed tax levy on Tuesday’s ballot does not call for an increase — the levy, if passed, will remain at the same level as the current levy that went into effect years ago.

“It generates about 80 percent of the revenue we need to operate Summit DD on an annual basis,” said John Trunk, the board superintendent.

The levy amounts to about $11.50 a month for a Summit County home assessed at $100,000. The proposed levy rate is 4.5 mills — 45 cents for each $100 of valuation. The length of the proposed levy is six years.

When the original levy passed some 10 years ago, the developmental disabilities board was helping about 3,100 people annually, Trunk said.

Now the board is helping 4,700 developmentally disabled people annually. Of those, about 2,600 are adults, 1,000 are school-age children and the remaining are children not yet old enough for school.

“We anticipate the trend will continue,” Trunk said.

“The levy actually brings in less money than in 2007,” said Billie Jo David, the board’s communications manager. That’s in part because property values remain lower than 10 years ago and because of other tax changes, she said.

“We’re serving more people with less money,” David said.

And also working with fewer employees. That’s in large part because a lot of so-called direct service work previously done by board employees is being shifted per federal mandates to private sector businesses. The board still manages cases while having oversight responsibility over the service providers.

The board had about 600 employees in 2006 and has about 450 now because of the transition away from providing direct services, Trunk said.

At the same time, the board has been receiving more federal Medicaid dollars, but that money requires local matching funds, Trunk said. The split is 60 percent federal funding with 40 percent matching local funds, he said.

“We’ve been successfully stretching our local dollars,” he said.

If voters do not renew the levy on Tuesday, the board likely will ask the Summit County Council that it be placed on the ballot in upcoming 2018 elections. The current levy expires on Dec. 31, 2018.

Not getting the levy renewed will mean drastic cutbacks in programs and services, Trunk and David said. It will mean the loss of federal dollars as well, since there won’t be local matching money, they said.

Renewing the levy will mean that the board will operate without a local tax increase through 2024, David said.

“So, 18 years without an increase if this passes,” she said.

“Our biggest challenge with this being an off-year election is getting voters out,” Trunk said. “Our challenge is to motivate people to get out and vote.”

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

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