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Lucas County panel refuses to back levy try

Children Services wants to put 1.9-mill property tax on November ballot

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The Blade
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After three meetings and hours of crunching numbers and scrutinizing expenditures and budget projections, the Lucas County Citizens Levy Review Committee said no on Tuesday to the Children Services levy request going on the Nov. 4 ballot.

By a 4-2 vote, the committee sent a recommendation to the Lucas County Commissioners against approving the Children Services proposal for a seven-year,1.9-mill property tax request. It would replace a five-year, 1.4-mill levy that is set to expire in 2016.

Terry Glazer, the nonprofit sector member on the panel, said the request asking for more money comes too soon after voters renewed a 1-mill levy plus a new, 0.85-mill tax in 2012 for the agency. He encouraged the organization to re-evaluate its position and attempt a ballot request later.

“I support children. I support Children Services. But there are just too many questions in my mind to support this,” he said.

Dan Hiskey, who along with attorney Joan Rife supported approval of the levy request, asked the committee to forward the recommendation to the commissioners but encourage CSB staff to make changes in the presentation of its financial and staffing information.

The committee, which has nine members representing the areas of labor, finance, business, and nonprofits, could have recommended approval of the levy request or forwarded the issue to the commissioners without a recommendation.

Dean Sparks, CSB executive director, along with other agency staff, spent more than two hours before the committee providing information on CSB, its services, personnel and staffing levels, caseloads, and efforts since 2008 to cut nearly $6 million from its budget.

Many questions focused on the agency’s fund balance that went from $20 million in 2009 to a projected $818,616 at the end of 2014.

Mr. Sparks said the agency used the reserved savings to make up lost revenue from decreased tax collections because of reduced property valuations and decreases in federal and state funding.

He told the committee that without the chance to win approval for the levy in November, the fund balance would shrink to $300,000 in 2015, and the agency would be forced to cut $1.5 million through reductions in services to families and nonclient expenses, as well as layoffs or staff attrition.

Mr. Sparks said after the meeting that he was disappointed with the decision. He said he still plans to ask the commissioners to approve the levy request.

“I am not sure they understood everything that we are trying to point out to them,” he said. “There are some disagreements between the committee and the agency in terms of what we are going to do.”

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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