Children Services levy headed to fall ballot

By Steve Robb

March 19, 2019

Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, March 20 newspaper on Page A1.

A 2.5-mill levy will be on the November ballot for Athens County Children Services, the county commissioners decided Tuesday, although most of the levy is not a new tax.

Cathy Hill, Children Services executive director, said 2 mills is a replacement tax for a levy originally approved in 2000 but never updated. Putting it on the ballot as a replacement tax will allow it to be collected on updated property values and generate more income. The other 0.5 mills is a new tax.

According to information provided by Hill, the 2.5-mill levy will generate about $2.75 million annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $87.50 a year.

Children Services also has a 3-mill levy that was renewed in 2015, and the two levies combine to represent 58 percent of the agency’s budget. State funds represent 8 percent and federal funds make up 32 percent, with 2 percent coming from other sources.

Gov. Mike DeWine has proposed a $74 million increase to the state’s family and children services fund, nearly doubling it. Hall has called the increase (which still must be approved by the legislature) welcomed and needed, but explained to the commissioners that if distributed to the 88 counties according to a formula used in the past, which gives larger counties a larger share, it will not have a major impact on her agency’s budget.

Hill told the commissioners that substance abuse by families continues to be a problem. She said substance abuse was evident in 56 percent of Athens County Children Services’ ongoing cases in 2017, and it climbed to 68 percent in 2018. The agency had 46 cases of drug-impacted infants in 2017 and 53 in 2018.

According to Hill, between 2013 and 2018 care and placements costs for children have increased by $1 million.

More children are in the custody by Athens County Children Services. In 2013 there were 30 new custody entries, while in 2018 there were 60 new entries. Hill told the commissioners that a one point in 2018 the agency had 166 children in its custody.

There were 1,866 referrals to the agency in 2018, up from 1,768 in 2017. Referrals are when the agency is contacted by someone with concerns about the welfare of a child.

srobb@athensmessenger.com; Twitter @SteveRmessenger

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