Over the years, it HAS BECOME increasingly important for communities to ensure that its most vulnerable populations receive the appropriate care and attention they deserve.
Over the years, too, that responsibility increasingly has fallen on local taxpayers to adequately fund critically needed agencies that provide essential services for such groups as the developmentally disabled, the mentally ill, children and senior citizens.
On next month’s general election ballots in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, agencies representing all of those vulnerable groups have tax issues on the ballot to ensure such vital services are maintained and strengthened.
All of them have one common denominator: All are renewal levies, which translates into no additional taxation. They also all deserve voter support to avert potentially harmful cutbacks to the indispensable assets they offer and that contribute greatly to the overall quality of life for all in our region.
MENTAL- HEALTH NEEDS
Topping the list of countywide issues in Mahoning County on Nov. 3 is Issue 4, a 0.5-mill, 5-year renewal levy for current expenses for the Mental Health and Recovery Board. That levy, first approved in 1976, raises $915,489 annually and costs the owner of a $100,000 home $5.56 annually or a paltry 50 cents per month.
In Columbiana County, voters face a 0.3-mill, 10-year renewal levy for mental health services to raise $454,900 annually.
In both counties, levy dollars are used to support myriad programs such as depression and mental-health screenings in schools, suicide prevention offensives, counseling services for those who cannot afford them and a variety of other compassionate and necessary missions.
The need for these and other services shows no signs of waning. In recent months, the impact of mental illness on mass shootings and the spiraling heroin epidemic in our nation have catapulted effective mental-health treatment to the top of the public-policy agenda.
Clearly this is no time for voters to retreat in their support.
DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED NEEDS
Voters in Mahoning and Trumbull counties also face similar countywide tax renewal levies to provide services to the thousands of their developmentally disabled residents. In both counties, voter retreat once again is not an option.
The 3-mill 5-year DD board levy, which is Issue 6 on the Mahoning County ballot, raises about $11.3 million a year and costs the owner of a $100,000 home $98 annually.
The return on that investment of less than $2 per week provides educational, vocational and recreational programs for about 1,500 developmentally disabled county residents.
In Trumbull County, the DD board is seeking voter approval of a similar 2.25-mill, 10-year renewal to raise $7,281,314 annually. Trumbull County’s comprehensive Fairhaven programs have won accolades and have earned voters’ trust. As such, they also have earned a yes vote on the renewal levy next month.
CHILDREN AND SENIOR NEEDS
Trumbull County residents also will cast ballots on a 2-mill, 5-year renewal levy for Children Services to raise $6,718,407 annually. Continuing that tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $61 per year, or about $5 per month.
The Trumbull CSB has proven itself to be a strong and accountable steward of county residents’ financial resources and of their precious human resources – abused and neglected children.
To its credit, the agency has significantly streamlined its operations, downsizing staffing from 160 full-time employees to 140 full-time workers over the past 10 years. It has managed to do so amid the growing opiate crisis that has increased the number of children in agency custody by more than 40 percent.
Clearly, Trumbull CSB could not weather a $7 million hit to its operations at this time of crisis.
On the other end of the age spectrum, Trumbull voters also must decide on a 0.75-mill, 5-year renewal levy for senior-citizen services to raise $2,389,496 yearly.
Through a network of senior and community centers in the county, lives are enriched through various services including information and referrals, prescription assistance, social and recreational activities, and health and wellness programs.
For senior citizens, for neglected children, for the developmentally disabled and for the mentally ill, Mahoning Valley voters should demonstrate their typical compassion by overwhelmingly approving renewal levies for them Nov. 3.