Board sticks to ‘no deficit spending’

By William K. ALCORN


Facing the loss of tangible property-tax revenues and continuing reductions in state funding, the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities has had to make some hard decisions to stay ahead of the game while maintaining programs.

A key part of the survival plan was a “no deficit spending” philosophy adopted by the board in 2004, said Larry Duck, MCBDD superintendent.

“We only spend money we are sure we are going to get,” Duck said.

No deficit spending, along with reduction in staff and cooperation from its unions in lowering other employee- related costs, has enabled the agency, which provides services for developmentally disabled Mahoning County residents, to live within its means, Duck said.

For example, the staff has been reduced from about 304 in January 2005 to 248 now, and when people leave, “we look really carefully at if we can get by without replacing them by combining responsibilities,” Duck said.

“And, during the whole process, we’ve been able to maintain all of our programs,” he said.

He said the tangible property tax, which is part of the agency’s levy revenue, is slated to be phased out by the state over seven years starting in June 2011. That translates to an estimated loss of $1.62 million, or about $250,000 a year, for the MCBDD.

Worse, the talk in Columbus now is about possibly eliminating the tangible property tax all at once instead of over seven years. “We won’t know about that until the new governor’s budget comes out in March 2011,” Duck said.

Also, Duck said in view of the state’s $8 billion deficit, MCBDD will most likely lose part of the $2 million a year it receives from the state.

“In addition to cuts in state funding over last two years, we expect another 10 percent [$200,000] to 20 percent [$400,000] reduction in the coming state biennium,” he said.

The positive news is that so far, the MCBDD has been able to absorb the financial losses and limit the increase in its annual budget, the superintendent said.

The board, at its November meeting, approved a 2011 budget for all funds of $24,724,881, just $61,632 more than its 2010 budget of $24,663,249.

Next year’s direct-service contracts approved by the board represent a net decrease of $281,750 compared with calender year 2010. Nine contracts had no change in the allocation; four contracts were increased by a total of $9,000; and four contracts were reduced by a total of $290,750, he said.

Duck said that the reductions do not represent a decrease in client services, but rather a shifting of most of the payment to provider agencies to Medicaid funding rather than 100 percent paid out of local levy funds.

By shifting eligible clients to Medicaid waivers, the county board pays about 35 percent of the cost with locally generated matching funds, with the remainder paid by the federal government’s Medicaid program.

Duck added that the 2011 budget includes two new client care initiatives that stretch local dollars:

Matching funds were included in the budget to fund 40 Medicaid waivers for children (under age 22) with intensive needs, which will enable families to receive additional assistance in the form of in-home respite care, equipment and home modifications such as ramps and accessible bathrooms.

The board also has authorized a $50,000 matching funds payment to the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission that will draw down some $190,000 in federal funding to pay for community employment opportunities for developmentally disabled residents.

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