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Published: Friday, 6/27/2014

Committee gives green light to 2 of 3 levy requests

Children Services’ proposal not approved


The Lucas County Citizens Levy Review Committee voted Thursday to recommend two of the possible three tax proposals voters will see on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The committee approved requests from the Mental Health Recovery and Services Board, which is seeking a 10-year renewal of a 0.50-mill levy, and the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, which is asking for a five-year renewal of a 0.45-mill levy as well as an increase of 0.15 mills for a total levy of 0.6 mills. Both were approved across the board, with the exception of one abstention for each.

Meanwhile, the review committee continued to have doubts about the proposal from Lucas County Children Services. The agency wants to replace its current five-year, 1.4-mill levy with a seven-year, 1.9-mill levy two years before the former is set to expire.

After a June 16 meeting during which Lucas County Children Services presented its initial proposal, the review committee requested more information about the agency’s budget.

Children Services was on the ballot in November, 2012, for a different levy renewal and increase. However, the agency’‍s projections for 2012 and 2013 failed to meet its expectations. Committee members specifically asked what measures were taken when 2012 and 2013 did not meet expectations, and they deemed Children Services’ response inadequate. The agency responded with the statement, “We develop a performance improvement plan.”

Andrea Price, one of the review committee’‍s nine members, said, “These are just a bunch of words.”

The committee believes if Children Services could not convince them, it certainly would not be able to convince the citizenry.

The review committee noted some concerning discrepancies as well. From 2010 to 2013, Children Services’‍ total revenue decreased from roughly $41.3 million to $34.6 million. However, Children Services’ fund balance decreased from about $18.8 million to $1.6 million.

It appears as though the ending balance has a greater difference in decrease than does the revenue, which alarmed the review committee.

In its proposal, Children Services mentioned several areas of concern for its office, including human trafficking, children with developmental disabilities, and the rise in heroin abuse. Daniel Hiskey, the committee member specializing in fiscal issues and accounting, said these major concerns do not seem to be addressed with any increases in the proposed budget projections. Instead, the fund balance, employee salaries and wages, and worker’s compensation are set to see increases.

Ultimately, Mr. Hiskey wants to ask Children Services “how the proposed budget, with passage of the levy, resolves the major needs outlined” in the proposal.

The review committee said that it wants to give Children Services every opportunity to answer its questions before deciding on a recommendation to give to the county commissioners.

Brittany Ford, the executive assistant of commissioner Pete Gerken, said Children Services and the commissioners will meet next week to decide on the agency’‍s next steps.

The review committee hopes to have another meeting to decide on a final recommendation after the conclusion of those meetings.

Contact Kathleen Ashcraft at: kashcraft@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.

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