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TRUMBULL COUNTY Panel denies one request for CSB levy



Published: Thu, August 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



One levy was expiring; the other still has time left.

WARREN -- One of Trumbull County Children Services' levy requests was denied by county commissioners after they voiced concern over the agency's $8 million contingency fund.

Commissioners did agree Wednesday to place an 0.8-mill replacement levy on the November ballot. They nixed a requested 2-mill replacement levy.

Jason Earnhart, assistant county prosecutor, said Children Services officials and commissioners agreed to that in a meeting Tuesday.

"We are the gatekeeper," Commissioner Paul Heltzel said of the commissioners' role in deciding which levy requests to bring to the public. "If we think something is way out of balance, what we can do is basically close the gate."

Children Services has two levies that were passed in the 1970s and '80s and renewed by voters several times. Heltzel said the 0.8-mill issue was expiring, and that the agency still has another election cycle to win favor for the 2-mill issue.

Robert Kubiak, Children Services executive director, said the agency annually comes in contact with 5,000 young people -- a tenth of the county's childhood population.

"At least at this point in time we have some options as far as how we can approach levy ballot issues," he said. "We're not running from a crisis situation. This is part of a long-range plan. Our initiative is to keep a very vital operation going at the level the children require, and at the level the public has come to expect."

Needing facts

A week ago, however, he was asked by Heltzel to provide facts on why Trumbull County's Children Services operation has more staff and costs more than Mahoning County's, and why it needs the $8 million contingency fund.

Kubiak said Trumbull offers a "much more intensive" residential program and needs its contingency to shore up declining levy revenues. That contingency will shrink the longer the levy replacement is delayed, he said.

There are 160 to 180 employees, depending on the number of staff on call, he said.

"We have that money because we feel we've been prudent in our spending, and we've been very zealous in seeking every other [mostly federal] dollar that's out there ... so that we didn't run out of money," Kubiak said.

The two Children Services levies brought in $6.3 million last year, more than 50 percent of the agency's annual revenue. Both of the replacement levies would have raised an additional $3 million annually because they would be based on current valuations.

Kubiak had told commissioners last week that the levies' millage has not been increased in almost 20 years and, because of this, both are bringing in tax revenue at a reduced rate. Replacement levies of 10 years were sought.

If approved

Commissioners have asked the county auditor to determine how much money the 0.8-mill replacement levy would generate if approved by voters.

Replacement levies mean the millage will be the same, but the levies will collect more money -- since property values have risen since the levies were originally approved. Renewal levies, by contrast, would keep the revenue the same, and millage would be less if property values went up. Replacement levies will not increase the mills but will increase the money generated.

Commissioners did agree to place a Fairhaven levy on the ballot. They also are looking at levy requests from Warren-Trumbull County Public Library and a senior services issue. Kubiak conceded Trumbull County voters this fall could have a lot of ballot issues to filter through.

The Trumbull County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities runs the Fairhaven school and workshops. Its 10-year replacement levy would be 2.25 mills; it combines a 0.35-mill levy first approved in 1976 and a 1.9-mill levy approved in 1990. The levies expired at the end of 2004, but are generating $5.5 million for this year's budget. The replacement levy would bring in $6.9 million annually.




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