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Published: Friday, 10/26/2001

Issue 2: A vote for kids

The Lucas County Children Services' 1.4-mill levy on the Nov. 6 ballot is music to the ears of property owners. Here's an agency that wants voters to approve a reduction in taxes. Provided services don't suffer, we think that's a good idea and recommend a vote For Issue 2.

The agency that tends to the county's abused and neglected children, and when necessary oversees adoption and foster placement, seeks to reduce its local tax revenues for several reasons.

First, LCCS believes that its careful stewardship of tax funds enables it to get by with less, even though the need for the services the agency provides has not diminished but grown.

Second, the agency has identified, sought out, and secured other funding sources - including government and private - which have helped LCCS keep the bottom line in the black.

How much less? The 1.4-mill, five-year levy would replace a 2.25-mill levy that expires at the end of this year. Over the life of the new levy, it's expected to generate about $55.9 million. The proposed levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $42.88 a year.

In reality the net reduction is not all that great, given increased property valuations, but still, a reduction is a reduction.

Even though more children are in the system - the 11,500 served by the agency in 2000 is a 6 percent increase over 1999, and the 4,750 families serviced a year ago is a 5 percent increase over 1999 - placement costs have still been kept down. That's partly due to the fact that the number of children placed with relatives outside the primary home has remained steady, while those placed in foster care has declined considerably.

Also, relatives don't receive as much reimbursement for care as do foster parents. Consequently, a savings is realized there as well. Dean Sparks, executive director of LCCS, says the agency couldn't “in good conscience” ask voters for more money than it needs.

That's a refreshing attitude for an agency that has had its problems but seems to be running more smoothly under Mr. Sparks' leadership.

It might appear that LCCS would have to cut programs under a reduced, replacement levy. But in fact LCCS plans new education intervention and additional in-home services, and it plans to expand support for kinship services.

We will watch Lucas County Children Services closely to make sure reduced tax revenue does not harm its mission, but we have no qualms about recommending Issue 2.

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