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Published: Wednesday, 4/27/2005

Blanchard Valley still has deficit after cuts

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FINDLAY - Blanchard Valley Center cut nearly $1 million from its 2005 budget. It eliminated six of its seven directors and hired an assistant superintendent to take up the slack.

The extras are no more, officials say, and still the agency that runs a school, sheltered workshop, and residential program for Hancock County's mentally retarded population is looking at a $1.5 million deficit for next year.

Voters will be asked on Tuesday to support an additional five-year, 1.9-mill levy for the Hancock County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. It would generate $3.08 million a year for Blanchard Valley - nearly half of which is needed to make up for red ink.

Superintendent Bryan Miller said a task force that reviewed operations at Blanchard Valley School late last year "recommended that we cut $250,000. We've cut a million here from the '05 budget. They said we were top heavy, so we've taken care of that. We really are trying to be the best stewards we can with the public's money to show we really do need this levy to be passed."

The levy, which is 0.9 mills less than one proposed then withdrawn by the MRDD board last fall, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $58 a year.

Mr. Miller is hoping residents see that as a small price to pay for the services Blanchard Valley offers. The school serves 170 children from birth to age 21, while 217 adults receive employment services through Blanchard Valley Industries. Fifty-nine receive residential services in the community, and 32 others live in group homes at the Blanchard Valley campus.

Two of Blanchard Valley's community work programs - at the Skyview Cafeteria in the Findlay Municipal Building and at the Fairfield Inn where clients are employed in housekeeping - would be eliminated if the levy fails. Seven other positions, including three classroom aides and an occupational therapist, also would be cut.

Darlene Baney, president of the MRDD board, said her concerns lie not only with the clients now being served, but with the growing number of adults on Blanchard Valley's waiting list for residential services. In many cases, their parents are aging.

"We're asking for the community to give us the support so we can continue to meet the needs of the people who depend on us for their housing, their therapy, their daily care as well as being able to address the needs of adults who are getting older," she said. "That's a major concern."

There are currently 136 individuals on the waiting list.

Ms. Baney said the county has traditionally supported Blanchard Valley, and she hopes that support will continue.

"I think what excites me even more is we're getting different community groups interested in coming out and working with the consumers and the programs," she said. "That shows me the community is looking at what we're doing."

In its history, Blanchard Valley suffered just one defeat at the polls. A 2.9-mill operating levy failed by just 32 votes in March, 1996, but it passed overwhelmingly the following November when the board reduced its request to 2.5 mills.

That levy was replaced in 1999 and again in 2003.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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