County voters to face two levies on fall ballot

Voters cast ballots at Wood County District Public Library.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

Wood County voters will have two county-wide issues to decide in the November election.

Neither are asking the voters for more millage – which was very important to the county commissioners as they deliberated the tax levy requests earlier this year.

One levy is a reduced renewal levy, dropped from the current 2.95-mills to 2.45 mills for Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The duration of that levy is five years.

The other is a replacement 1-mill levy for 10 years for Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services.

During a presentation by Wood Lane officials earlier this year, Superintendent Brent Baer talked about the “dynamic growth in services” that the board is seeing. And Martha Woelke, of the board, said great deliberation went into the levy request.

“We did everything we can to maximize state and federal money,” she told the commissioners.

The board has been able to reduce its levy collections some years, but feels that 2.45 mills is the lowest it can go for the renewal.

When people with developmental disabilities waive their right to institutional care, they are picked up by community based services – like Wood Lane. That agency then identifies their needs and develops plans to meet them, Baer said.

The waivers allow for federal funding, but the community agency must still pick up 40 percent of the costs, said finance officer Steve Foster.

“Our commitments are for the life of an individual,” Baer said.

Demands are growing as the population here is increasing. “Wood County is one of the few counties in Ohio that’s growing,” Baer said.

About five years ago, there were 226 consumers on waivers. Now there are 425. Baer expects that number to double again in the next five years.

The board may need to be back in five years, asking for a greater levy, but this should do for now, Baer said.

The Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board started out asking for an increase in levy dollars, from the current 1-mill to 1.3 mills.

But the Wood County Commissioners – who have to certify the need for levies before they are placed on the ballot – asked the ADAMHS board to consider other options for the November ballot issue.

The current 1-mill levy generates about $2.9 million. The levy replacement plus addition of 0.3 mills would bring in an additional $1.3 million.

The replacement levy at the same millage would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $35 a year. The originally proposed 1.3-mill replacement levy would have cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 approximately $45.50 a year.

Tom Clemons, executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Services, said the additional funding was needed to keep up with growing needs for services. Some of the biggest issues include dealing with the opiate epidemic, providing more mental health housing, and improving crisis intervention services.

At the same time as seeing rising costs for services, ADAMHS is also seeing a drop in help from the state and federal government. A decade ago, state and federal money made up 60 percent of the ADAMHS budget. Now the local levy dollars have to bear the burden of 75 percent of the budget.

“We have made prudent reductions in our budgets,” Clemons said. “We are conscientious about using taxpayer dollars.”

The county commissioners, however, were concerned about voter fatigue for tax levies, and worried about the ADAMHS levy failing at the polls. So they urged the board to go with a replacement levy, without additional millage.

“We want to make sure it is the right fit for Wood County and for the ADAMHS board,” Herringshaw said.

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