Not since 1992 has the Lucas County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities sought a levy increase.
That suggests careful management of the public's money and helps make the case For Issue 3, which would roll two of the agency's continuous levies of 1.0 and 1.5 mills - passed in 1979 and 1986 respectively - into one and add 0.5 additional mills in a replacement levy totaling 3.0 mills. That also would be continuous.
Approval would raise the board's current total voted millage from 4.5 mills to 5.0 mills. Coupled with increases in property values, the $66.43 collected on homes valued at $100,000 will nearly double, to $120.45 if the levy passes.
But it merits support because it benefits people who did not ask for the disabilities they find themselves with and who can't go it alone. They rely on the rest of us, and we gain in grace by helping them. Abandoning such individuals is unthinkable in a caring community.
The agency has shown an ability to stretch dollars even as it expands programs for its clients and wins awards for excellence in every aspect of its performance. These range from state accreditation (it was among the first six county boards to get it) to certification of its Lott Industries by Ford Motor Company as a quality supplier. Lott is the first MRDD workshop in the nation to win this distinction.
Its financial underpinnings are not what we usually see among many groups seeking taxpayer support. It has spent in excess of its budget for two years, but has made up deficits with carryover funds, now in decline. Soon its carryover funds will be inadequate.
Past carryovers are not so much the product of having a too-high millage to begin with as they are the product of the staff's ability from year to year to bring in program funds from other sources. One of these since the 1993-94 school year has been an added $5 million to $6 million annually from the Medicaid Community Alternate Funding System. Sources like these can never be anticipated.
Another anomaly is that this board is currently being supported by six continuous levies passed in 1958, 1967, 1973, 1979, 1986, and 1992. Some consolidation is in order, and the new proposal, which comes with the promise of no new requests for funds for four years, starts that process.
Lucas County MRDD deserves passage of Issue 3.