Updated Thu, Jul 3, 2014 10:08 am
The Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities has selected the levy option it will present to the Athens County Commissioners.
After looking at budget projections and deficit spending, the ACBDD determined that it would ask for a 1.5 mill tax levy to continue program operations.
If the commissioners approve the levy, they will send it to the Board of Elections for final approval on the November ballot.
According to Superintendent Young, the levy would generate $1,345,354 for the ACBDD, costing an additional $50 per year to a household making $100,000.
The ACBDD has been in a serious financial crisis for the last several years with expenses steadily outpacing revenue.
If the levy passes, the money would go toward rising expenses and working toward decreasing the board's current deficit. But even the levy wouldn't be enough to bring the ACBDD into the clear.
"Even if the levy were to pass, we're still running a deficit there and I'm very aware of it. We're trying our hardest to find a way to level this out," said Steve Kramer, the ACBDD Business Manager.
The board emphasized that their three main concerns for the future of the ACBDD are the rising costs of health care, salaries and health insurance waivers.
"The waivers are a funding program, medicaid is what it is...It's a mandated service once they have that waiver they're entitled to services," said Young. "We're very cautious about allocating those waivers because they lock us into a lifelong expense of providing for individuals."
Kramer said the ACBDD is working to assemble a committee to analyze all of they clients it has served since 2009.
ACBDD serves its clients from birth to death with programs like Beacon School, ATCO, PersonnelPlus and Passion Works Studio. Young said the main contributor to the budget deficit is an increase in needs from aging recipients and caregivers.
"We are serving more people and they're people who are now receiving services that are needing more and more services," Young said.
To cut costs and improve their financial situation, the board has eliminated positions and met with county auditors.
"We're pretty much at a position where we've eliminated all the excess positions we can do without harming current services," Young said. "If taxpayers want us to continue these services then they need to get on board and help us pass this."
If the bill doesn't pass, the board will have to continue eliminating positions to keep itself above water.
The board expressed concerns about asking for too much money but determined that it was the only realistic option to help their programs.
"You have the pressure of asking for too much millage but the three main things I preach about aren't really discretionary, they're hard things to change," Kramer said. "When someone in the county has high needs, we don't really have the option to say no."
In order to campaign the potential future levy, the ACBDD will fundraise to spread a message of improvement.
It is against the law for the ACBDD to use government money to fund any campaigning, and employees can only campaign when they are not working.
"We'll work on crafting a message to the voters about...what we've done over the last two, three years to try to cut costs and increase revenues," Young said. "We've probably eliminated about 10 positions but we're at the point now that if we continue eliminating positions that will start negatively impacting services.
"So that's part of that message as well - what will happen if we don't pass the levy."