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Published: Tuesday, 5/24/2005

2-mill levy passes 1st hurdle for Nov. ballot

WAUSEON - Fulton County commissioners unanimously took the first step yesterday toward putting a new 2-mill continuing levy for the Fulton County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities on the November ballot.

Commissioners are expected next week to consider the final step of putting the issue on the ballot as the disabilities board requested.

If approved, the levy should allow the board to help at least half of the 41 adults on its waiting list to move out of their family home and into an apartment, said Peggy Hooyenga, community services director for the disabilities board.

The board sends workers to help such disabled adults - there are approximately 40 in the county who now live alone or with roommates - with tasks such as budgeting their money, paying their bills, and shopping. Depending on the severity of their disability, the board also provides workers who help with laundry, cleaning, cooking, and around-the-clock supervision.

Such services typically cost the board $10,000 to $70,000 per person annually depending on the severity of the person's disability, Ms. Hooyenga said. Of that cost, the federal government pays about 60 percent and county taxpayers cover about 40 percent. The Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities contributes to that local share for a few disabled adults.

Those costs do not include rent, utilities, or food, which disabled adults typically cover with a combination of Social Security Disability or similar government payments and their work earnings.

Some disabled adults have been on a waiting list to move out of their family home for more than a decade.

If the new 2-mill levy passes, it will bring in $707,000 more than the board receives from county taxpayers now.

The levy would cost the owners of a $100,000, owner-occupied house - who now pay $90 a year in disabilities board taxes - an additional $26 a year.

That increase in collections and taxes is lower than it would be otherwise because of a board promise that if its proposed levy passes, it would cease collections on a 0.5-mill continuing levy that brings in $278,210 a year at an annual cost of $7.72 to such a homeowner.

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