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New levies sought for agencies



Published: Wed, July 27, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Two levies for Children Services would raise an additional $3 million.

WARREN -- Two Trumbull County social services agencies are vying for commissioners' approval of levies on the Nov. 8 general election ballot -- and one says it can't wait much longer.

Fairhaven Superintendent Douglas A. Burkhardt told commissioners Tuesday that the Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities will lay off 115 employees and reduce programs Aug. 26 if its ballot issue doesn't make the Aug. 25 filing deadline.

Those cuts will occur Nov. 9 if voters defeat the issue, he said.

The 10-year replacement levy would be 2.25 mills; it combines a 0.35-mill levy first passed in 1976 and a 1.9-mill levy passed 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.

MRDD's annual budget is $18 million. The agency is dealing with a change in its federal Medicaid money for intermediate care facilities. Should its levy fail, nearly 50 percent of MRDD's annual income is jeopardized.

Levy on hold

Burkhart reminded commissioners that MRDD's levy request last year was put on hold so as to not crowd the ballot. That was so Lifelines, the county's alcohol, drug addiction and mental health services board, could pass a levy to raise an additional $1 million annually. That 1-mill, 10-year replacement levy's success followed voter rejection of new Lifelines levies three times since 2000.

This year commissioners face a similar situation, with levy requests from Trumbull County Children Services, Warren-Trumbull County Public Library and a senior services issue. Last spring a 1-mill levy proposed by the District XI Area Agency on Aging to raise $3.4 million was defeated.

Commissioner James Tsagaris said commissioners are studying the levy requests -- but conceded MRDD has been awaiting its turn.

Greater need

Robert Kubiak, Children Services executive director, was asked by Commissioner Paul Heltzel to provide facts on why Trumbull County's operation has more staff and costs more than Mahoning County's CSB, and why it needs an $8 million contingency fund.

Kubiak said Trumbull offers a much larger residential program, and needs its contingency to shore up declining levy revenues.

Two replacement levies sought by Children Services would raise an additional $3 million annually, Kubiak said. There are 160 to 180 employees, depending on the number of staff on call, he said.

Children Services has two levies, passed in the 1970s and '80s and successfully renewed by voters several times. They brought in $6.3 million last year, Kubiak said, more than 50 percent of the agency's annual revenue.

Raising collection

Kubiak said 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. The replacement levies will be for 10 years.

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.

In other business, commissioners told dog warden Robert Campana that they would need to schedule a public hearing on his request to raise fees to generate money for replacing equipment such as high-mileage trucks. Campana said he would like to increase fees for licenses, fines, sales, adoptions and other line items to match the higher costs in Mahoning County. Most fees have not been increased in 34 years, he noted.




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