EATON — Preble County Job and Family Services will be sending Issue 28 to voters on Tuesday, Nov. 3. The issue is a replacement levy to support Children Services.
The issue is a .6 mil property tax levy and is a replacement to the current levy being used which was passed in 1982, according to Becky Sorrell, director of PC Job and Family Services. According to Sorrell, the only difference in the replacement levy is the usage of current property values.
According to Sorrell, the costs to residents will go from paying about $7 a year to $21 per year.
Jeff Centers, head of PC Children Services, says the vast majority of the money will go to the care and protection of children in the department’s custody.
He clarified, some of the money can go toward capital improvements if those improvements go toward relatable improvements like improving the building’s visitation room. However, he continued to stress, nearly all the money will go toward the placement and care of children.
The current levy provides about two months of care and protection, according to Sorrell, who hopes the $549,600 projected to be brought in by the levy will provide about four and a half months of the costs for child placement and care.
According to Centers, there are 102 cases currently open as of the end of September, with 55 children being in paid placement.
“Safe and stable family and friends are always the first option explored for children who must be removed from their primary family,” he said. “These 55 children do not currently have those options.”
He continued, “It’s important to know that we do everything we can do to keep kids out of these expensive placements — we make efforts to keep kids with their relatives. It’s best for the kids to stay with someone they know and stay in their own community. If this levy were to pass, that’s not going to stop just because we have the extra funds — it’s still the best practice and what’s best for the kids. “
The county currently faces an average of $145,663 per month for child placement costs, which according to Centers does not include items like clothing, school supplies or work uniforms.
Sorrell said this issue could affect everyone if it were not to pass.
“If this levy doesn’t pass, the renewal for the old levy will be put on the ballot next time around, and if that doesn’t pass the money for child placement will start coming from the general fund which affects everyone else,” Sorrell said.
Children Services is primarily paid for by local taxpayers, according to Centers, who says Ohio provides the smallest amount of state support. “Ohio does little to support child protection financially, leaving it to the local citizens to provide funding for the protection of children in their county.”
Currently, according to Centers and Sorrell, the federal government makes up about 41 percent of the cost while the state only covers nine percent, leaving local taxpayers responsible for the remaining 50 percent.
They also noted, Children Services will occasionally receive more assistance from the federal government if the child is available for federal money. However, Sorrell explained, those dollars require a local match and without local dollars, federal dollars are not available.
“There is a myth out there that we will make money on the kids we place, that’s not true,” Centers said. “If every dollar we spend we may get 63 cents from the federal government, that’s not making money, it helps to offset the costs but it’s definitely not an incentive to re-place kids.”
According to Sorrell, the primary concern she has been addressing has been the concern the extra money will mean the department will no longer have incentives to cut cost. . She noted, if the levy does pass the county still has at least seven months of costs to be paid as incentive to cut costs.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @aschmidt_RH.