AS LUCAS County voters go to the polls in the shadow of a sharp economic downturn, they must make several crucial decisions on how the community will continue to deal with abused children, mentally ill and homeless residents, and adults and children with mental retardation and related disabilities.
Three county agencies Children Services, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, and Mental Health and Recovery Services have tax levies on the Nov. 4 ballot and approval of each issue would result in a tax increase, although a nominal one.
The challenge, as we see it, is for voters to set aside their fears about the economy for a moment and consider the importance of retaining reasonable funding for agencies that, on the whole, have done a fiscally responsible job of tending to some of the community s most vulnerable people. Defeat of the measures would impede that progress.
The issues in question are replacement levies, which means the millage would be applied to updated real estate values. Approval of all three would result in a total tax increase of $50.85 a year for a home valued at $100,000.
Even in tough times, that is a small price to pay for maintaining services that are, in many cases, required by law.
Issue 38: Children Services
This is a 1-mill, fi ve-year replacement levy that would generate $9.9 million a year for an agency charged with investigation and resolution of reports of child abuse, neglect, and dependency.
Over the past six years, CSB, as the agency is commonly known, has drawn down its financial reserve from $30 million to $20 million, enough for about fi ve months of operation. The surplus will be exhausted by 2013.
Passage of the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $6.47 more a year than the current levy.
Issue 39: Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilites
This 4-mill continuing levy would replace a 1-mill measure which was passed in 1992 and a 3-mill issue approved in 2001. It would generate an additional $9.8 million a year to care for profoundly disabled clients those with such expensive-to-treat maladies as mental retardation, spina bifi da, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and autism.
MRDD offi cials point out that they ve asked taxpayers for more money only twice in 16 years. During the past fi ve years, they ve been able to double federal Medicaid funding, which now accounts for $17 million of a $63.2 million budget. However, 61 percent of the agency s funding comes from local taxpayers.
Issue 39 would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $33.16 more a year.
Issue 40: Mental Health and Recovery Services
This 1-mill replacement levy will generate an additional $2.8 million annually. The agency has a $61 million annual budget, 97 percent of which goes directly to funding services. Issue 40 would raise the taxes on a $100,000 home by $11.22 a year.
Since the county agencies handling mental health and alcohol and drug addiction services merged in 2006 saving $100,000 in administrative costs the waiting time for services has been shortened from as long as six months to immediately, 14 days, or 30 days, depending on the case.
Like other agencies that receive funding from the state. MHRS already has taken cuts totaling $575,000 this calendar year, and more cuts are likely. In addition, the state has given notice that it will soon begin to charge $50 to $80 more for beds at state treatment facilities, which already cost $481 a day.
During the fi scal year that ended June 30, MHRS served 19,000 people, including 6,000 children, needing emergency psychiatric care; housed more than 500 mentally ill people, and provided diagnosis and treatment to those in need. Notably, its services are those for which demand grows in periods of economic distress like that now being experienced in the Toledo area.
In sum, the services provided by these three agencies are essential to a civilized community. That s why we recommend votes FOR Issue 38, Issue 39, and Issue 40.